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A Mexican gray wolf. Jim Clark / USFWS

Scientists now have proof that the border wall built by former President Donald Trump is impeding the movements of wildlife

Data from a tracking collar on a Mexican gray wolf named Mr. Goodbar revealed that he spent four days in November pacing along 23 miles of newly-constructed border wall in New Mexico, likely frustrated in his attempts to find a home and a mate. 

“[T]he border wall is placing the recovery of an endangered species at risk,” Wildlands Network biologist Myles Traphagen told National Geographic. 

Tracking collar data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tells the story of how Mr. Goodbar left his home and pack in Arizona and traveled southeast for months through the Chihuahuan Desert. On November 22, he passed Las Cruces, New Mexico and headed towards the Mexican border. However, there was something in his way: a 30-foot border wall built with steel beams bisecting what had once been open desert a year before. 

The wolf spent from November 23 to 27 walking along the wall in search of an opening before giving up and heading northwest on November 28, according to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). He eventually ended up in the Gila National Forest, which is where most Mexican gray wolves call home. The incident marks the first evidence that the border fence is separating two endangered wolf populations. 

“[B]eyond one animal’s frustrations, the wall separates wolves in the Southwest from those in Mexico and exacerbates inbreeding in both populations,” CBD senior conservation advocate Michael Robinson said in a press release. 

Mexican gray wolves are a smaller subspecies of gray wolves that once lived in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Northern Mexico, National Geographic explained. They were nearly wiped out to protect the interests of the livestock industry but were granted Endangered Species Act protections in 1976 and reintroduced through a captive breeding program in the 1990s. As of March 2021, there were 186 wolves in Arizona and New Mexico and another two dozen or so across the border. Conservationists think that interbreeding could boost the health of both populations, but the border wall, which covers most of New Mexico, now makes this impossible. 

In addition to Mexican gray wolves, the wall also blocks the movement of Sonoran pronghorn, jaguars, ocelots,  bighorn sheep, mountain lions, bobcats and mule deer, to name a few. 

CBD and other environmental groups want to open up the wall in “priority areas” that are important for wildlife, HuffPost reported. 

“President Biden should knock down the wall,” the CBD’s Robinson told HuffPost.. “Allowing Mexican gray wolves to roam freely would do right by the sublime Chihuahuan Desert and its sky-island mountains. We can’t allow [the wall], this stark monument to stupidity, to slowly strangle a vast ecosystem.”

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics main press center in Beijing, China on Jan. 24, 2022. Carl Court / Getty Images

The Winter Olympics, set to begin on February 4, are facing a host of environmental challenges. Dangerous smog levels have hit Beijing, where the events will take place, and a lack of snow and even water and cold temperatures required to make artificial snow have posed further problems. Experts are also concerned about the viability to host such winter sporting events in the coming decades.

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Gas flaring at a facility in the Permian Basin. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

As the largest oil-producing region in the U.S., the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico is already a nightmare from a climate perspective.

As the largest oil-producing region in the U.S., the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico is already a nightmare from a climate perspective. 

But now a new report from Carbon Mapper and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reveals that oil and gas facilities in the area are emitting unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions in the form of half a million cars’ worth of methane

“In this decisive decade for reducing greenhouse gas emissions every molecule matters, and the fact that some facilities are persistently leaking methane for years without detection or repair highlights the urgent need for comprehensive and transparent methane monitoring,” Riley Duren, chief executive officer for Carbon Mapper and research scientist at the University of Arizona, said in an EDF press release. 

The report is based on three years of aerial surveys of oil and gas facilities in the Permian Basin, taken from 2019 to 2021. The surveys revealed that around 30 facilities had consistently leaked large amounts of methane over multiple years. 

These facilities, which include pipelines, well pads, compressing stations and processing facilities, only account for less than 0.001 percent of the oil and gas infrastructure in the basin, yet stopping their flow of methane would keep 100,000 metric tons of methane out of the atmosphere every year and save $26 million a year in gas.

Methane is the second largest contributor to the climate crisis after carbon dioxide, Reuters reported. It lasts for a shorter time in the atmosphere, but while there it traps around 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide, according to Yale Environment 360. The methane emissions in the report are the result of natural gas leaks, so eliminating those leaks is a relatively simple way to make a big contribution to fighting climate change. 

To that end, a group of more than 100 countries including the U.S. signed the Global Methane Pledge at COP26 in Glasgow last November to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent of 2020 levels by 2030, as Reuters reported at the time. 

At the same time, the Biden administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new rules to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas wells, which it said would cut emissions of the potent gas by about 75 percent. The new rule is open for public comment until the end of January, and the agency will announce a related rule in the spring for flaring and smaller wells, Reuters reported. 

Overall, the report bolsters the idea that acting to control methane can make an important difference.

“The magnitude of emissions coming from a handful of methane sources in one of the top oil- and gas-producing regions illustrates the opportunity to make significant near-term progress toward the stated methane reduction goals of the U.S., other countries, and companies around the world,” Duren said in the press release.

The surveys identified almost 1,100 super methane emitters that contributed around half of the Permian Basin’s total methane emissions. However, many of these leaks were large but not long lasting.

The report did not name the companies responsible for the top emitting facilities, but Reuters identified the coordinates of the largest emitters as corresponding to facilities owned by Occidental Petroleum Corp, ConocoPhillips, Energy Transfer Partners, Callon Petroleum Co. and Coterra Energy.

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