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Wildlife Barriers

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

An electric Asian Carp barrier is being used to prevent the exotic fish from entering the Great Lakes where the fish will cause billions of dollars in damage to the economy, disrupt the ecosystem, and likely cause direct death of people by knocking them from boats. 

Constructing the St. Lawrence Seaway and the locks for shipping allowed sea lampreys to enter the Great Lakes and greatly impaired native fish survival and the fishing industry. Chemical treatment of streams is required to kill young lamprey to reduce lamprey surviving to enter the Great lakes. The dams on the Grand River have prevented lamprey from getting upstream from Grand Rapids to reproduce in streams. A plan is being implemented to remove the dams to return the river to its natural flow like it was a couple hundred years ago. Pros and cons were debated and dam removal was decided. Treatment of upstream tributaries will be required. 

The US Department of Agriculture spends massive quantities of money inspecting products to prevent micromoths, fruit flies, beetles, and other invertebrates from entering our country. The money spent is miniscule compared to the economic losses experienced when exotic species successfully establish here. Most of us are aware of the billions of dollars damage the Emerald Ash Borer has caused in Michigan since it arrived in 2002. The list of direct economic impact is primary for most people. The social impact came in second when streets were denuded of trees and beautiful woodlots stand with dead leafless trees. Third comes concern for the loss of native insects and associated birds and mammals that depended on the ash trees for life.

I do not fully understand why the order of concern is money, social, and then ecological. If we protect the ecological, a good economy and good social wellbeing follow. 

A wildlife/human barrier is the center of national concern. The evidence supports a wall will be largely infective for preventing people and drug trafficking into the United States. Most unlawful immigration and drug travel is achieved through border inspection sites. Most everyone is opposed to illegal entry but many businesses hire illegal immigrants because it costs less than hiring legal immigrants and people prefer to pay less for products. 

Scientific studies are providing impact evidence the wall between Mexico and United States will have on wildlife populations. Laws are bypassed to build the wall. The Endangered Species, Clean Water, and Clean Air Acts have been exempted for wall construction. How would you feel if laws were exempted to allow PFAS chemicals in your drinking water? There is a movement at the national level for that but that is a separate issue. 

The border wall harms wildlife populations by eliminating, degrading, and fragmenting habitats. Studies indicated 1506 species of native land and aquatic animals will be negatively affected. Most species have not been evaluated. Sixty-two critically Endangered or vulnerable species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature will be impacted. This is not only a question of economic, social, and ecological impacts for sustaining a healthy future for coming generations. It is an ethical behavioral decision of our society’s behavior. It is a “me first” verses an “us first” attitude that affects species that share the planet with us.

The more we impair ecosystems, economics hits our pocketbooks and wellbeing. The estimated 80-billion-dollar wall with a down payment of 5.7 billion has been critically analyzed as less effective than other border security measures. That debate continues with evidence mounting against the wall’s effectiveness. 

For wildlife, the wall will eliminate or degrade natural vegetation, kill animals directly through habitat loss, prevent breeding by separating wildlife, erode soils, change fire regimes, cause flooding and prevent animals from accessing water. The physical barrier will prevent access to food, water, mates, and migration routes. If space allowed I could provide information about how studies indicate specific species will be impacted. 

Scientists are urging the US government to recognize and give high priority to conserving the ecological, economic, political and cultural value of the US-Mexico borderlands. They state national security can and must be pursued with an approach that preserves our natural heritage. Our national leader dismisses science. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.


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