A proposed map showing an early plan for the border wall in South Texas leaked this weekend, revealing that new wall construction would snake through two wildlife refuges along the border. The McAllen Monitor obtained the map of the proposed 31-mile stretch near McAllen, showing three miles of border wall slicing through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and an unknown length of wall running through the National Butterfly Center in Mission.
The leaked map only confirms what conservationists have suspected for the past month or so. Federal workers reportedly began construction on a levee wall in the Santa Ana refuge—one of the nation’s top bird-watching sites and home to more than 400 types of birds and endangered species—last month. At the National Butterfly Center, workers contracted through U.S. Customs and Border Protection appeared without warning last month and began widening roads, presumably for heavy equipment. Conservationists say the construction of a wall would have an immense detrimental impact on the wildlife living in the refuges. Local officials who were shown the map are also worried that it would cut off neighborhoods and communities that would be south of the new wall.
On Friday, a group of Democratic Texas Congressman sent a letter to Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, expressing concern over the plan for the wall in South Texas. “A wall cutting through the refuge could do serious environmental and economic damage, and the American public deserves transparency for what could be billions of taxpayers’ dollars spent on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border,” the letter said, according to the Monitor. The letter was signed by Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, and Filemon Vela of Brownsville.