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Pictures Worth a Thousand Words...and 650 Miles Make the Rounds in AZ

December 3, 2009

PHOENIX - The border wall being built in an attempt to reduce illegal immigration is doing major ecological damage by blocking critical southern Arizona wildlife corridors, according to conservation groups. A photo exhibit demonstrating that damage is on display through Friday at Arizona State University Memorial Union, Tempe.

Krista Schlyer, a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, made many of the photographs during a border expedition earlier this year.

"Some of the photos are of wildlife species that will be impacted by the wall, that live along the border. There will also be photos of people and the communities of people we met while we were out on this expedition."

Schlyer was surprised to see how much harm vehicle barriers do to jumping species like deer, especially in places where a previously-built barbed wire fence has been left in place.

Researcher Matt Clark with Defenders of Wildlife says the exhibit shows the effect of the border wall on species such as desert bighorn sheep, which need to migrate among mountain ranges to reproduce and maintain genetic diversity.

"Desert bighorn sheep are a species of conservation concern and have declined dramatically over the past century. We need to sustain not only populations, but the connections between populations, if they are to maintain an ability to survive in a very harsh environment."

The photo exhibit helps overcome the misconception that the Arizona-Mexico border region is a deserted wasteland, Schlyer says, when it's really an area of incredible beauty.

"I think that particular misconception has caused much of the problem in terms of the border wall, because without knowing the biological diversity and the cultural diversity of the borderlands, it's easy to not consider the impact of what we're doing down there."

The photo exhibit travels to Tucson and Bisbee later this month.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ