Border Wall in South Texas National Wildlife Refuges

Update, 3/26/2018: On March 23, 2018 President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill (H.R. 1625 – Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018) that provides $1.6 billion in new border security infrastructure, much of which is slated for the Rio Grande Valley. The bill exempts the Santa Ana NWR but threatens Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR properties as well as other protected areas with border wall construction.  Section 230.(c) of the bill reads, “None of the funds provided in this or any other Act shall be obligated for construction of a border barrier in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.”

Update, 2/10/2018: On Friday, 2/9/2018, the federal government posted a solicitation of construction bids for 3 miles of border wall (obviously the 3 miles through SANWR) as well as installation of fiber-optic cable, lighting systems, and construction of all-weather patrol road and enforcement zone. See this article for details.


In mid-July 2017 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers extracted soil samples in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge to prepare for construction of three miles of concrete levee wall and fence. According to Manuel Padilla, Chief of the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, SANWR will be the “starting point” for wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley. Construction of the wall, which would cause significant harm to the Refuge and the wildlife protected by its mission, would begin as soon as funding is secured.

Rio Grande through SANWR. Photo by Larry Ditto.

As of January 4, 2018, Congress has not yet approved a proposed 1.6 billion dollars for construction of 60 miles of the new wall, including approximately 30 miles in Hidalgo County that were not included in the 2006 border wall construction. Many of the Hidalgo County gaps in the 2006 border wall are in National Wildlife Refuge tracts, Bentsen State Park, and the National Butterfly Center.


The Friends of the Wildlife Corridor opposes construction of any further border walls in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, particularly within Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuges and any protected conservation areas.

With respect to virtual wall approaches (a barrier using technology rather than concrete and steel), we need information on habitat effects in time to provide input.

  • We are concerned about the negative effect on the wildlife and plant species in the Refuge posed by the proposed physical or virtual wall.
  • We are concerned about the irreversible physical damage to the Refuge that would be caused by construction of a physical or virtual wall and any associated clearing and lighting.
  • We are concerned about the inhibiting effect a wall would have on public access to the Refuge, restricting ability of the visitors – including thousands of school children per year — to experience old-growth forest in a region where little native habitat remains.
  • By damaging the refuges and inhibiting visits to the “crown jewel”(Santa Ana) of the national wildlife refuge system, a wall will have a negative economic effect on eco-tourism in a region where the poverty level is about 35%, and that concerns us.
  • We are concerned about the process by which this wall, which has such sweeping potential effects on our region, has been planned — in secrecy with no public knowledge or participation, and with no evaluation of environmental, social, or economic effects. We strongly disagree with that approach.

We are calling for your help to block that construction and ensure that elected officials understand the damage this wall will cause. Please do whatever you can to let people know that a wall through the Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuges is unacceptable. Please contact your own elected officials to express your opposition.

Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis)  photo by Larry Ditto.

Please stand with us against the proposed border wall in our Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.


Fact sheet on the wall proposed through Santa Ana NWR and its effects on the habitat and the regional economy.

Template for a letter to urge decision-makers to reverse the rush to wall off the Refuge.

8-minute video made at the time of the initial fence along the border. The video makes a plea and describes facts that are as relevant now as in 2005. 7-minute video and article on the effect of U.S.-Mexico border fence on wildlife.


For updated media reports see posts on our Facebook page.


National Wildlife Refuge Association post, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Ground Zero for Border Wall Expansion.

American Bird Conservancy press release, Keep the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Intact.