Proposed border wall construction sparks concern for Starr County wildlife preserve

1 week 3 days 3 hours ago Tuesday, September 12 2023 Sep 12, 2023 September 12, 2023 10:08 PM September 12, 2023 in News - Local

A new section of border wall is being planned for northern Starr County.

For a tiny birding preserve in that area, the 20-mile-long proposed construction is a concern they're encountered before.

“It's another nightmare, definitely another nightmare that's coming our way,” Salineno Birding Preserve refuge Director Debralee Garcia-Rodriguez said. “If you're only looking at a map, it definitely says it's going through our area."

The preserve sits on two and a half acres that borders the Rio Grande. They’re expecting more birds, and visitors, to the preserve this fall.

The proposed construction comes after the federal government moved to take land from the preserve in 2020 for the wall.

Afterward, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office moved to request survey access to the property in 2022 for the state wall.

Now, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it needs the 20 miles to gain "operational control of the border."

“I do think there are people who are generally concerned about some of our border issues,” Garcia-Rodriguez said. “However, as a conservation organization, we have our concerns from an environmental standpoint."

Members of the public have until Friday, Sept. 15, to comment online on any potential impacts to the environment, culture, quality of life or commerce that the proposed border wall construction might bring.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera says he intends to comment.

“It's been my experience that one the government sets their mind to do something, it's very hard to change it,” Vera said. “At the beginning, I was dead set against the wall. But now, with things happening, I can see that a wall is needed in certain areas. I don't agree that a wall is needed from one end of the county to the other."

Garcia-Rodriguez says her staff is worried about losing land and wildlife to nearby construction, or getting stuck behind the wall.

“If you put us behind a border wall, and you put a gate that cannot be regularly opened, how are we supposed to continue our daily operations of that preserve,” Garcia-Rodriguez said. “I would really hope that the government would consider at this point in time how rich the biodiversity is here in our region, and that this preserve has a special place in many people's hearts."

To take part in the online comment of the potential border wall construction, click here. 

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