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Bulldozers to Tear Through Heart of Sonoran Desert for Trump's Border Wall

Politics
Bulldozers to Tear Through Heart of Sonoran Desert for Trump's Border Wall

Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.


The win came shortly after the Center for Biological Diversity asked a federal judge to stop construction in 68 miles of the Arizona border via a filed injunction saying the government unlawfully ignored dozens of laws in place to protect wildlife habitat. The delay is set to last until October, leaving many environmentalists concerned this is only a temporary win. On Thursday EcoWatch teamed up with Center for Biological Diversity Borderlands Campaigner Laiken Jordahl via EcoWatch Live on Facebook to find out what we should expect to happen in the coming weeks and to gain clarity on the energy on the ground of our borderlands.

​Watch the interview:


"This is an important win, but it's so temporary and it's important to stress that," said Jordahl. "Bulldozers are already arriving on site in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the San Pedro River in Arizona."

To find out more about this specific monument and surrounding area, watch this video which is part of the Center for Biological Diversity series Border Views:

A temporary win means there is still a plan for bulldozers to tear through wildlife refuges in October. The department of homeland security will replace waist-high vehicle barriers currently in place with a "30 foot impenetrable wall, complete with night lighting and cameras on top," said Jordahl. "It will have a profound impact on wildlife connectivity in ways that these vehicle barriers do not."

Jordahl reiterated the importance of understanding the conservation aspects of vehicle barriers and how the border walls replacing them will have irreparable harm on wildlife — not only 93 endangered species at risk from the wall, but "virtually every single terrestrial animal [that will not be] able to cut across this impermeable barrier."

[Read to find out 93 endangered species threatened by Trump's wall.]

"We are proposing quite literally to ram a border wall through the heart of the best Sonoran Desert habitat anywhere in the world," said Jordahl.

What can we do about it?

The Center for Biological Diversity recommends a "huge outpouring of support and advocacy," and that EcoWatchers reach out to Congress stating that we want "legislative protection for these nature areas."

According to Jordahl Republicans want to approve $5 billion more for border walls which would wall off the rest of the U.S. Mexico border. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, please call Congress.

Border wall construction is already happening and underway in Organ Pipe. Currently the Center for Biological Diversity has a pending lawsuit, awaiting a decision by Sept. 4. If they lose and Trump is allowed to waive any and all environmental protections to rush wall construction, they expect ground to be broken in almost 60 miles: through the entirety of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and across San Pedro River which is the last free flowing river in the American Southwest.

Jordahl says the most important things anyone can do are to raise awareness, to share videos like this interview and to help the Center Biological Diversity to reframe the argument and discussion around the border.

"If politicians in DC and most of the American public knew the reality of the land here, the beauty of the land and how fragile these ecosystems are, there's no way we'd be talking about ramming a medieval wall through some of these expansive and beautiful nature areas," said Jordahl.

Another thing EcoWatchers can do, if able, is take a trip to the border to see the borderlands for themselves. Some places Jordahl recommends visiting are Organ Pipe in Arizona and Big Bend in Texas. Jordahl's view of the borderlands is one with flourishing national treasures, diverse wildlife habitat where black bears and jaguars dwell in the same place, rugged spectacular landscapes and seven different units of the national parks service.


A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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