Arizona Daily Star
February 5, 2009
By Jonathon Shacat
SIERRA VISTA — Several photographers were capturing images of wildlife and landscapes at the San Pedro River earlier this week as part of an effort that will highlight the ecological implications of the border wall.
They are part of a team of about 12 photographers associated with the International League of Conservation Photographers who are participating in a three-week expedition along the U.S.-Mexico border that started in San Diego last week and is heading for Texas.
"This region is a shared conservation treasure of international importance that harbors some of the most biodiverse landscapes on the continent. Many species here are found nowhere else in the U.S., and nowhere else in Mexico, and some are found nowhere else on Earth," states the project's action plan.
The team features international award-winning photographers such as Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Dykinga, Kevin Schafer, Wendy Shattil and Roy Toft.
Krista Schlyer, a photographer and writer, came up with the idea for this Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition while she was working on a story in New Mexico about a transboundary bison herd that spends time in both Mexico and the United States.
"I saw them jumping over a barbed wire fence, which they had kind of broken down in their passage. And I knew about the border fence that was being built," she said. "So I thought I wanted to do something about it. I went to the ILCP and asked them if we could do one of these RAVEs and they said sure, so I started organizing it."
Schlyer, 37, who lives in Mt. Rainier, Md., said besides the photographers, the group also includes a three-member film crew from Cornell University, as well as two biologists — one from the U.S. and one from Mexico.
The Department of Homeland Security used authority granted under the Real ID Act to waive dozens of federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, in order to build portions of the border wall.
The aim of the Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition is to add momentum to a movement to repeal the Real ID waiver provision, and to ensure the U.S. respects the wildlife, ecosystems and local people of the borderlands area in border security efforts.
Ian Shive, 30, a photographer who lives in Los Angeles and has a book coming out in September called "The National Parks: Our American Landscape," said he hopes the project will result in change.
He pointed out photographs and paintings helped convince Congress to create Yellowstone National Park as the country's first national park in 1872.
"The opportunity to come out and focus on a specific issue is certainly very appealing to me," he said.
Ted Wood, 53, of Boulder, Colo., a photographer who mostly works as an environmental photojournalist, said he was interested in this project because it is similar to his work.
"Every story that involves nature (in) some way has a human aspect to it, or else nature wouldn't be having a problem. Most of these guys here are wildlife and landscape photographers. I tend to be more of the type that focuses on the people's role in all of these issues," he said.
Bill Odle, who owns land along the border near the San Pedro River, said he appreciates the fact these photographers are bringing attention to the border fence issue.
"I am anti-wall," he said. "I am pro-immigration, but I want it done right. I don't want people climbing over the wall, and falling and breaking their ankles and stuff."
He said the border wall blocks the way for migrating wildlife. He thinks vehicle barriers and barbed wire fencing would be sufficient because they prevent the crossing of vehicles and livestock, but would still allow wildlife to pass through.