Texas is a special place to bird. The best place in Texas is land along the Rio Grande River, the border with Mexico.
From one end to the other, the Rio Grande Valley, as the area is known, holds an important fringe of tropical vegetation. On one side of the highway that borders this area are the scarce pieces of wildlife habitat that we have managed to save. Across the highway is cropland.
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) sits along the river, 2,000 acres of semi-tropical vegetation that attracts birds from similar habitat in Mexico.
It is one of a string of federal, state, and county sites set aside as parkland and nature reserves. All provide excellent wildlife habitat.
I’ve been to Santa Ana NWR several times. I made my 550th North American bird sighting there — an Anhinga.
I had wandered away from my tour group to check the shore of a small pond. There, in a tree, wings stretched to dry, was the Anhinga.
On visits to Santa Ana since then there have been more new birds, more interesting and special birds.
Now comes government plans to build The Wall along the river, our border with Mexico.
If plans are approved, one piece of The Wall would cut straight through Santa Ana. There will be the usual scars of heavy construction work. There would be a naked 50-yard buffer zone along the wall’s south side. (The Wall would not follow river contours nor would it be designed to avoid any particular habitat. The Wall is to be strictly utilitarian.)
This stretch of wall, cutting through the refuge, is to be 10 miles long. It would be no more than a five-mile walk to avoid the wall.
Santa Ana has been a showpiece of the refuge system, a special place, one, incidentally, created with money from the sale of duck stamps (96 percent of refuge cost).
I understand the discussion about security. With The Wall, however, the refuge is compromised. I don't say that is good or bad. All I say is if The Wall becomes reality, Santa Ana no longer will be the beautiful place so many birders have enjoy.
The price we pay for security comes in many currencies.