Anybody who cares about and supports preserving the great American outdoors has got to oppose President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall or a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
There’s no way to support both, because Trump’s wall would be an ecological disaster of a scope we’ve seldom seen before.
A very good example of why that is lies about 600 miles west of here, where the Rio Grande makes a big bend along its course to the Gulf of Mexico.
Big Bend National Park is a beautiful, special place. It’s one of very few areas of real backcountry open to the public in Texas, which contains very little public land compared to the rest of the American West.
People who make the effort to go there and experience the Chisos Mountains and the vast Chihuahuan Desert tend to be moved by the grandness of the place.
If Trump’s 2,000-mile border wall is built, about 120 miles of it will have to be plowed through Big Bend.
Building a wall or fence through the park would require cutting more roads through it, stringing power lines through it and erecting work camps in it.
Trump’s border wall would destroy the park.
It would also devastate wildlife in the park. Big Bend is the last home in Texas for black bears and mountain lions, which range on both sides of the river. A wall would cut their ancient trails and interrupt patterns of life that have been going on for eons. Many other animals cut off from the river by a wall would die from lack of water.
Corrupting a place like Big Bend with a wall would in itself be an especially heinous crime against the natural world, and a wall there would account for only a fraction of the whole monstrosity.
The same ecological devastation would occur all along the wall and all manner of wildlife, including the mule deer and antelope Texans so love to hunt, would be ravaged by it.
The wall can’t be built everywhere exactly along the actual border. Much of its course would have to be miles into U.S. territory. Meaning that for practical purposes, we’d have to cede miles and miles of the United States to Mexico for Trump to make good on his electioneering hyperbole.
And so to have the Great Wall of Trump, we’d have to sacrifice some of our natural beauty and bounty, some of our physical territory and $25 billion or so of our national wealth. In return, we gain the off chance of having a few less undocumented immigrants.
Now that’s a bad deal.
• Michael A. Smith