News Roundup: Scientists Warn That A Wall Would Harm Plant And Animal Species On The Border

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelApril 3, 2018 1:35 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Scientists in Austin and Alpine say President Trump’s plans to expand barriers along the US-Mexico Border will harm plants and animals in Texas. They outlined their concerns in a letter published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

University of Texas at Austin Professor and Biologist Norma Fowler is one of the letter’s authors. She says a lot of attention has been paid to how a wall would affect mammals like ocelots in South Texas and black bears in West Texas.

“And I just want to broaden the discussion from just a handful of mammals, no matter how cute they are, into the full breadth of biodiversity that’s at risk.”

Fowler says, for example, plants like the Zapata bladderpod, which is an endangered wildflower, would likely be destroyed by the construction of new border barriers.

“They’re going to be building that wall right on top of these Zapata bladderpod populations and bam! That’s the end of the plant,” says Fowler. “You can’t put the equivalent of a five-lane highway on top of plants and expect them to survive.”

In the letter, the researchers point out that the proposed barriers and roads would have a total width of 40 to 60 feet. Fowler adds, even if new barriers are constructed to allow wildlife to pass through, it’s not clear they will.

“I don’t think we understand all the things that go into the decisions made by each animal species about its behavior when confronted with an obstacle.” The researchers conclude Texas will be affected more than any other state because it has the shortest length of existing barriers and the longest border with Mexico.

U.S. Sen Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, says withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, would be harmful to the state and the country as a whole. He made these comments after President Donald rump threatened over the weekend to walk away from NAFTA.

Cruz spoke on San Antonio radio station KTSA, Monday. (You can hear the entire interview here.)

Cruz said, “What I have urged the president to do on NAFTA is to use that as an opportunity to open up even further the Mexican markets, the Canadian markets to U.S. farmers, U.S. ranchers, to oil and gas exploration to U.S. small businesses. More trade is going to benefit Texas.”

Cruz also launched his reelection campaign in Beaumont yesterday. He’s facing a challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who announced Tuesday this his campaign raised a stunning $6.7 Million dollars during the first quarter of 2018.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley upset the five-year reigning champions Webster University in a national chess competition this past weekend.  The final score was 7.5 to 7.0. It was the annual President’s Cup, held in New York City.

Their coach, and chess grandmaster, Bartek Macieja, spoke with Texas Standard last year about the state of the program when he started. “So basically I had to build everything, build the whole team from the beginning.”

In a news release from UTRGV, Macieja said he and the team felt confident going into the competition. The team first participated in this national tournament in 2016 where they lost to Webster University.