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This in-depth discussion of the situation in Santa Ana NWR The Birding Community E-bulletin by Wayne Peterson and Paul Baicich.  It presents material not previously shared on Mobirds.

Edge Wade
ASM Conservation Partnership Coordinator

IBA NEWS:  THREAT TO SANTA ANA NWR
 
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas is currently under an immediate threat from the Trump Administration's border-wall plans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its subcontractors have recently been taking soil samples and making other preparations to build a huge and intrusive 18-foot border-wall through the north end of the refuge. These preliminary activities have been occurring at the refuge for months, but nothing was officially announced until information was leaked last month.
 
Santa Ana NWR represents 2,088 acres of vital borderland habitat along the banks of the Rio Grande. The refuge was originally created in 1943 to protect migratory birds, and almost 95% of the property was acquired through Duck-Stamp/MBFC dollars.
 
Some 400 bird species have been recorded in the refuge, including migratory waterfowl, raptors, warblers, and a suite of "South Texas specialties" that are Mexican in character and barely range into Texas. Moreover, Santa Ana NWR is an essential part of that intricate network of natural hotspots in the four-county LRGV that draws an economic income of over $465 million per year from eco-tourists and birders.
 
Santa Ana NWR is an American Bird Conservancy-designated Important Bird Area (IBA) in the Tamaulipan Brushlands of south Texas and is among the ABC's 500 most important IBAs in the United States. Santa Ana NWR is an IBA that clearly deserves special consideration.
 
By initiating the border-wall on federal property at Santa Ana NWR, the Trump Administration can avoid the logistical and political nightmare of dealing with private landowners in building a wall through their backyards. Presently the plan is to build the wall on the levee that goes through and beyond the north end of the refuge.
 
In late July, the U.S. House of Representative passed a $788 billion defense spending bill which included $1.6 billion of funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The wall funding is intended to be mostly for Arizona and the LRGV, and it currently meets the Administration's down-payment budget request. It is likely that plans for the border-wall will get bogged down in the Senate, but there is already enough current funding in the pipeline to start the project somewhere on the levee.
 
If building the border wall through Santa Ana NWR becomes a reality, nearby properties upriver and downriver will also be at risk. These would include sections of the associated Lower Rio Grande NWR, and Texas state properties such as wildlife management areas and the birder-friendly Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, county lands, and even private properties along this important wildlife corridor.
 
If you wish to express concern about this issue to Congress, you can access a template letter from the National Wildlife Refuge Association which you can edit at:
http://refugeassociation.org/action/#/87
 
You can also obtain more details from the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp at:
http://www.friendsofthestamp.org/santa-ana-nwr-in-jeopardy/
 
For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area program web site at:
www.audubon.org/bird/iba/ 

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