Bud Kennedy

Texas ranchers, landowners join against Trump’s border wall

Santa Elena Canyon along the Rio Grande frames the Chisos Mountains at sunset.
Santa Elena Canyon along the Rio Grande frames the Chisos Mountains at sunset. Star-Telegram archives

President Trump’s border wall is dividing him from some Texas conservatives.

Ranchers and landowners from the Texas Wildlife Association announced their opposition to a Texas-Mexico border wall last week, supporting some new barriers but not a proposed 151-mile-long, 30-foot-high stretch of border wall through Big Bend.

Only a president from New York could think we need to spend public money building a 30-foot-high wall where nature already built a 1,000-foot-high mountain canyon.

“We just see so many problems,” said David Yeates, a banker, rancher and chief executive of the wildlife association, which represents 10,000 landowners managing 40 million acres of ranches and hunting leases.

The TWA’s statement warns that a wall would result in the loss of private property, “interrupt landowner/livestock/wildlife access to water from the Rio Grande, harm property values, and impair critical wildlife movement corridors for species such as black bears, mountain lions, white-tailed and mule deer, and desert bighorn sheep, among others.”

Some of the wall will be built as much as a mile inside Texas to save on construction costs or avoid floodplain, leaving homes, ranchland, watering holes, golf courses, nature preserves and anything along the river stranded past a Border Patrol gate.

“Does somebody want to buy a ranch that has a big wall across it and property stranded on the other side, and no access to the river, which is the only water in some places?” Yeates asked.

If you take away access to the Rio Grande, you take away the water for 50,000 acres of irrigated farmland, not to mention the drinking water for cattle and migratory path for wildlife.

For example, black bears have come back to the Big Bend from Mexico after a half-century, and bighorn sheep cross routinely.

Wildlife biologist Louis Harveson of the Borderlands Research Institute at Alpine-based Sul Ross State University has called the wall “ill-conceived.”

“If there’s a wall,” he told the Austin American-Statesman, “West Texas would be out of the bear business.”

The TWA statement suggests more patrols and electronic monitoring at the rural border.

Senate Republican leaders have resisted budgeting $2.6 billion to build 75 miles of wall, but legal work has begun to get construction bids and launch condemnation proceedings.

Yeates is careful not to directly criticize Trump.

“We’re not saying, ‘We don’t like your wall,’ ” Yeates said.

“We’re saying, ‘Here are the problems we see.’ 

Go ahead and say we don’t like the wall.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.