CBP invests $1.75M to study impact of border wall on wildlife

3 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Saturday, August 19 2023 Aug 19, 2023 August 19, 2023 12:50 PM August 19, 2023 in News - Local

Customs and Border Protection is spending $1.75 million to figure out how its own border wall is impacting wildlife.

The study plans to focus on Texas, including part of the Rio Grande Valley.

The federal government built the border wall on land right next to Bentsen State Park. Wildlife experts say the wall, the roads and the lights can alter animal behavior.

A new study aims to figure out what exactly has happened.

Along the levee, outside of Bentsen State Park, border wall construction is still underway, but at a different pace than it was four years ago.

The space around the wall is wider now, with a levee and a patrol road for agents and every so often, you'll see a bird fly across this wide stretch, but they don't waste any time.

"This was forest behind us. This whole area was forest, which is heartbreaking to see," professional birding guide Tiffany Kirsten said.

Kirsten fought the border wall construction at its height, and she noticed a difference in how wildlife react.

"A lot of people say, well birds fly, but they're not going to be affected by a border wall, but that's not entirely true," Kirsten said.

A new study funded by CBP will put aside $1.75 million to study the impact of wildlife and the wall.

"It's primarily going to be mountain lions and black bear," Dr. David Hewitt from the Cesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in Kingsville said.

They will be the ones executing the study. Dr. Hewitt says the study will focus on areas Del Rio to Starr County.

"As the development in the Valley kind of peters out to the west, all along the river in Starr County, and up in Zapata, and some of those areas," Dr. Hewitt said.

As to how they'll track the animals, they'll use cameras to figure out if they inhabit certain areas, and they'll use collars to track their movements. They'll also use genetic analysis to see if they're interbreeding.

"We can do some genetic techniques to understand the relationship of the populations in Mexico to those in the United States. If there isn't much movement across the border, then the genetics of those two populations would be very different," Dr. Hewitt said.

CBP said in a statement the study follows a Presidential order made in 2021, to "assess, remediate or mitigate" environmental impacts caused by border wall projects.

It uses leftover money that was previously being used to build the wall.

The study is expected to start after the summer.

"Within a year we'll start having some idea of what we're dealing with and the distribution of these species," Dr. Hewitt said.

A study to try to understand just how big of an impact the border wall is having on species along the border.

Watch the video above for the full story.

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