Wed, Aug 01, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Mexico calls on US to reconsider border fence plan

AP , MEXICO CITY

Mexico called on the US to alter a plan to expand border fences designed to stem illegal immigration, saying the barriers would threaten migratory species accustomed to roaming freely across the frontier.

Ways of minimizing environmental damage from the fences could include the creation of cross-border bridge areas so that ecosystems remain connected and "green corridors" of wilderness without roads that would be less attractive to smugglers, said a report released on Monday prepared for the Mexican government by experts and activists from both countries.

The report also suggested "live" fences of cactuses, removable fencing and more permeable barriers to allow water, insects and pollen to cross the border. Ecologists say among the species affected would be Mexican jaguars and black bears, and the endangered, antelope-like Sonora Pronghorn.

ecosystems at risk

On Monday, the Mexican Environment Department said the proposed fences would seriously hurt species that cross the 3,218km border and that the US needs to alter or mitigate the barriers where necessary.

"The eventual construction of this barrier would place at risk the various ecosystems that we share," said Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira, noting that the border is not just desert, but includes mountains, rivers and wetlands.

Mexico also wants Washington to expand its environmental impact study on the fences and will file a complaint with the UN's International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, if necessary.

The proposed fencing includes at least 595km of vehicle barriers and metal walls supplemented by:"virtual" barriers of sensors, mobile towers packed with sophisticated cameras, strong lights, radars and sensors and other technology.

isolation

The environmental report said the fences could isolate border animals into smaller population groups, affecting their genetic diversity.

The strong lights and radar could interfere with nocturnal species, and the construction and traffic along the walls could affect a wider strip of border land than just the fences themselves, activists say.

Environmentalists say construction of the fencing could wipe out endangered species like the Sonoran Pronghorn -- of which only about 100 still exist -- in the coming years.

Exequiel Ezcurra, director of research at the San Diego Natural History Museum, said that the pronghorns are used to moving across the border in search of scarce grassland.

The pronghorn "is without doubt the species in the most desperate situation, the number one victim of all the tension and movement on the border," Ezcurra said.

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