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10 August 2017


We walked maybe 10 yards before we spotted our first and second and third chacalaca, those chubby dusty brown birds scavenging under the low shrubs outside the Visitor's Center. Several hours later, we had spotted at least a dozen more bird species, overhead and in the trees. Lizards, long and short, fat and small, zip across our path, at least every couple of minutes. Rabbits and squirrels hop and skip on the trail, and then stop wide-eyed as if they are surprised to see us. Butterflies and moths flutter by along the way. We wonder where the ocelot and jaguarundi might be hiding to watch us. Spanish moss hangs thick and heavy and a bit gloomy. The Sighting of the Day must be the Very Impressive Blue Indigo snake, dark and thick and long and hustling, slithering to get out of our way. We see scat, full of seed, and wonder what animal could be responsible for littering the trails. We visit a cemetery full of wooden crosses, graves one hundred years old.

We spent the morning at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a federally managed park that nestles right up to the US/Mexico border at the Rio Grande river in south Texas. The morning sun burned bright hot as it moved overhead. Cicadas played the high-pitched whine and click soundtrack to our hike. We saw just two other people for most the morning, although I've read that 165,000 visitors arrive at the park each year. It's a gem of a place, a place where you cannot help but recognize and be impressed by the stark and harsh beauty of this tropical dessert zone.

This still, beautiful place has been in the news recently. It has been marked as the site of the next border wall project. And frankly, that ires me greatly, for many reasons. I believe that there are better solutions to navigate immigration issues than with a fence across a wildlife refuge. I believe that other options can be found to truly improve our nation's security than to scar this land with a wall. I believe that we can be far more creative, much more resourceful, smarter and better stewards of the land, than to resort to fencing off this place.

John Muir, early advocate for the wilderness, wrote, “Everybody needs beauty...places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” I hope that the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge continues to be one of those places.

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