Sabal Palms Sanctuary Claims Border Fence Endangers Rare Forest
BROWNSVILLE – Gene Paul likes to spend his free time at the Sabal Palms Sanctuary. The natural habitat remains undisturbed after years of urbanization and agricultural development in Brownsville. The sanctuary is surrounded by Mexico to the East and South.
“It’s what the Rio Grande Valley looked like 300 years ago,” said Paul.
Paul said he worries the border fence is having a negative effect on the migratory patterns of animals at the sanctuary.
“It’s going to stop the migration, both into and out," said Paul. "And that will affect the eco-balance.”
Sabal Palms Sanctuary operators told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the border fence negatively impacts the preserve in a way many may not expect.
Sanctuary manager Pablo Quintanilla said there's no evidence of a migration disruption at this time. He claims small mammals can fit through the crevices of the border fence, and larger mammals seek gaps in the fence.
“They’re big enough for some mammals, but small enough that no humans will crawl through it because that’s defeating the purpose of the wall," said Quintanilla.
However, Quintanilla said the border fence makes it more difficult for Sabal Palms to spread their seeds to other areas of the Valley. He said they rely on animals like coyotes to consume their seeds to facilitate their propagation.
“The coyote eats it, and then goes elsewhere and then defecates, so that’s going to promote a new palm," said Quintanilla. "So that’s no longer the case with this border wall.”
Paul plans to visit the sanctuary for as long as he can. He considers it a home away from home.
“It’s an escape from the traffic and all the news and whatever," said Paul. "You leave all that behind when you come out here.”
Quintanilla also expressed concerns about animals’ abilities to escape in the event of a fire.
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