One of the most polarizing subjects in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign came with his promise to build a border wall between the Southern United States and Mexico. Some of the most significant points of opposition came in concern for refugees seeking asylum coming to the United States, the impact it would have on the relationship between the United States and Mexico and what sort of message it would be sending the global community; however, in the paragraphs that follow I will be discussing one point of controversy with fewer media coverage. The border between the United States and Mexico spans nearly two thousand miles, and within this vast stretch of land lie six National Parks (NPCA, 2018). If Trump’s border wall became a reality, there would be approximately four hundred miles of the wall having to be constructed within these six National Parks (NPCA, 2018). The six national parks that would be affected are, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Coronado National Memorial, Chamizal National Memorial, Big Bend National Park, Rio Grande Wild, and Scenic River, and Amistad National Recreation Area (NPCA, 2018). The largest of the six parks listed above is the Big Bend national park in Texas, which would have to endure the construction of 118 miles of border wall.
Big Bend National Park (NPCA, 2018)
One of the most significant reasons that a border wall within these national parks would be harmful would be its effect on the wildlife whose natural habitat is within these national parks. One of the species that would be most harshly affected would be the Jaguar. The Jaguar is a resident of the Coronado National Memorial in Arizona; the Jaguar used to be much wider spread throughout Texas and Arizona until it was nearly hunted to extinction (Pupke, 2016). With very few left, it is crucial the ones who have found their homes in Arizona are protected; however, introducing a border wall would ultimately seal this species tragic fate. A border wall would disrupt the animals natural migration patterns between the United States and Mexico, as well as cutting the Jaguars off from crucial food and water sources (Pupke, 2016). Jaguars are certainly not the only species within the six National Parks above that would be affected; others include the Foghorn as well as multiple species of wolves and coyotes (Parker, 2019). This problem however stretches even from animals to plants. For example, the seeds of the Mesquite tree, which is native to the Big Bend National Park, germinate best and can spread more effectively after being digested and passed through coyotes (Parker, 2019).
However, the adverse effects of a border wall on National Parks and protected areas do not end with the wildlife within these parks. Both Big Bend National Park, whose name comes from the large bend in the Rio Grande which winds through the park, as well as the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, have large bodies of water within them. These bodies of water, especially the Rio Grande, are naturally susceptible to flash flooding, specifically during the spring rain season. The problem of having a border wall during this rainy season has already been made apparent in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where the border already has multiple fences and other barriers. During the flooding season, intense floodwaters trapped derbies against wire mesh fences (Parker, 2019). This caused floodwaters to rise to heights of two to seven feet; this leads to natural levels of flooding within the National Monument itself. However, these floodwaters were so violent after being built up by the barrier it reached Nogales, a border town within Arizona, as well as Sonora, a city on the Mexican side of the border. Between these two settlements, there were over a million dollars of damage done during 2008, and more recently again in 2014 (Jevris, 2017).
“Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history” (NPS, 2019), Theodore Roosevelt historically has been on the most significant advocates and one of the fathers of the National Park system. This quote that gives weight to the beauty and wonder of National Parks brings up the last argument for why a border wall through these parks would prove detrimental. National Parks are some of the most pristine landscapes within the United States and provide a unique opportunity for citizens who may be trapped in concrete jungles in their day to day lives to get outside into pure nature. However, if a large slab of cement or even mesh wire fences were erected within these natural wonders, the ability for citizens of the United States to cherish, as Rosevlete hoped they would, would be stripped away from them. Roosevelt himself would argue that taking away the access to these natural wonders would decrease the number of “good citizens,” due to his belief of being able to experience the wildness of America to be a “good American” (NPS, 2019). A border wall would not only harm the wild life within National Parks, the community surrounding them, but also, the very ideals that the national park system was built on.
NPCA, 2018, A Land Divided
Laura Parker, 2019, 6 Ways a boarder wall could disrupt the environment, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/01/how-trump-us-mexico-border-wall-could-impact-environment-wildlife-water/
Rick Jevirs, 2017, Trump’s boarder wall collides with Big Bend, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/06/border-wall-big-bend-national-park-donald-trump/101245626/
NPT, 2017, Former Big Bend national park ranger says a boarder wall would ruin experience,
Chris Pupke, 2016, Biopholia foundation
NPS, 2019, National Park Service