December 17, 2008
A border wall opponent has stopped construction of a portion of the structure that is to separate the Rio Bosque Park, a wetland in the Lower Valley that is the last remnant of the thick groves of trees and vegetation that once thrived along the banks of the river, from the Rio Grande.
Judy Ackerman stood in the way of construction crews this morning, denying them access to the construction site, which is on International Boundary and Water Commission property directly adjacent to the park. Ackerman is a Northeast El Paso resident active in environmental issues.
Bill Addington, another border wall opponent, said that city of El Paso police and Border Patrol were on the scene, but had not arrested Ackerman yet.
"I hope others will replicate this," said Addington, who made national news when the Wall Street Journal wrote the government's demand he take down a footbridge crossing the Rio Grande. [video] [article]
He said the action by Ackerman marks "the first time anyone has impeded the construction that I know of, and I've been paying attention to this very closely."
Doug Mosier, Border Patrol spokesman, said he didn't know of any other similar instances.
He said that officials still were gathering information.
"The protester at this moment has not been arrested, although that may be forthcoming," he said at about 11:15 a.m. "But we need to wait and see what happens here."
The 372-acre Rio Bosque Park is described on its Web site as a remnant of the wetlands and riverside forests that "once graced the banks of the Rio Grande in the Paso del Norte region. They were the most productive natural habitats in the region, but today they are virtually gone. At Rio Bosque, the environment is still changing, but in a new way. Here, a diverse partnership is working to bring back meaningful examples of the unique and valuable ecosystems once found in our river valley." [link]
A newsletter put out by the Center for Environmental Resource Management, which manages the park, stated the impact of the wall: "At the Park, the visual impact of the fence will be immediate and obvious. The ecological impact will be gradual and more subtle, but no less real. For many animals, the fence will be a barrier to movement between the Rio Grande and the Park and a barrier to genetic exchange. Over time, the fence will affect what species get established at Rio Bosque and, for some species, the long-term health and viability of the populations present."