Tuesday, July 2, 2013
A photographer documents the ecological impacts of the border wall between the United States and Mexico
"It was an 'aha' moment for me," she says. "Knowing where border policy was headed with plans to build a wall, and seeing the impact it would have on the bison, I knew how important this issue was to many species."
For the next five years, Schlyer traveled extensively in the borderlands, photographing wildlife and talking to residents in both countries. She came to know and love the region, and described it as a place "where beauty and life spring out of a brown hard crust of ground; where rivers live in trees during the day and their beds at night; and where bighorn sheep carry maps of desert water in their brains."
It's also a place where the future of several endangered species depends upon the connectivity of the region, including the Mexican gray wolf, jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi, Sonoran pronghorn and bighorn sheep. And, as the effects of global warming intensify droughts, animals like javelinas in Mexico that can't adapt to changing conditions will need to migrate north. They'll face a wall, and extinction. As individual species of the borderlands are impacted, entire ecosystems unravel.
Most border towns today are a testament to the region's rich history of overlapping cultures, Schlyer says, and "abound in Spanish missionary-style architecture, roadside shrines, Mexican cuisine, native art and a Western mentality."
While Schlyer has studied the immigration and national security policies that led to the construction of the border wall, she didn't fully realize the impacts to people until her boots hit the ground. And while the media portrays the U.S.-Mexico border as a dangerous place of drug runners and illegal immigrants, Schlyer saw a different reality throughout her travels in both countries. Prior to 1994, Mexican migrants seeking work safely crossed the border at San Diego, California, and El Paso, Texas, cities with roads and infrastructure. In 1994, President Clinton launched "Operation Gatekeeper," a U.S. immigration policy that tightened restrictions at these two crossings.
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