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September 17, 2014

Borderlands Love


The Sierra Club's Borderlands Team got a little love from the media earlier this month with the publication of one story about coalition efforts to restore environmental protections along the U.S.-Mexico border and another profiling the Club's work on the issue.

And just in time, too, because if there's one thing that there's just too little of on the border right now, it's love, sweet love.

Border-fencePhoto by Jeff Foote

Above, the border fence, which stretches for more than 650 miles in all four border states; below, a national park ranger talks to Borderlands Team activists at the border fence in Arizona.


The tinfoil hat blogosphere is ablaze with rumors of terrorist cells poised to invade the U.S. from imaginary training grounds and made-up martial arts dojos in Old Mexico. Ridiculous fantasy, yes, but not much worse than a real assault on our borderlands, an emergency border security bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month.

Below, Border Patrol tire tracks mar the desert along the border. (Watch our video, Too Many Tracks.)

Tire-tracks-on-the-borderPhoto by Dan Millis

Ostensibly to address the child migration crisis, lawmakers approved a plan that would waive sixteen federal protections on nearly all federal lands within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Laws waived include the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and more. The last time these protections were brushed aside it was the Bush administration at work, imposing their wildlife-migration-blocking, flood-causing, habitat-crushing, 652-mile, $3 billion border wall.


Above, deer stymied at the border wall; below, javelina face the same dilemma.


Candid photos of kit foxes and prairie dogs at play grace the pages of Continental Divide: Wildlife, People and the Border Wall, written and photographed by Borderlands Team volunteer Krista Schlyer. Below, kit foxes in the borderlands.


Winner of the 2013 National Outdoor Book Award, Continental Divide shows that our borderlands are precious: grasslands graced by wild bison, exotic birds in lush habitat along rivers and streams, people gathered on a beach to relax and play music. Watch Krista's book talk online and you'll see the truly beautiful, though, threatened borderlands.


Organizing to protect the natural beauty of the borderlands are two Texans who serve as Borderlands Team Co-Chairs: Scott Nicol of McAllen, and Julie Shipp in Austin. Julie takes care of logistics, wrangles volunteers, and updates the website, while Scott juggles print and radio interviews, fatherhood, and writing nationally-distributed op-eds that bring the borderlands to thousands of readers. That's Nicol and Shipp below.


Even better than reading about the borderlands is exploring them, and now is a great time to go! Conservationists across New Mexico and beyond celebrated the establishment this year of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, a jewel of the Chihuahuan Desert highlands just a few miles from the Mexican border. Don't confuse it with Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, below, another dazzling desert getaway that adjoins the black desert sands and immense craters of Mexico's El Pinacate Reserve.

Organ-PipePublic domain photo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Organ Pipe, named for the majestic cactus that occurs only in this region of the U.S. and Mexico, has had incredible rains this monsoon season, and the whole park is open to the public. If you are an aspiring desert rat, come see the Sonoran Desert in full bloom!

Organ-MountainsPhoto courtesy of Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter

Organ Pipe, Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks, above, and all the amazing places in Continental Divide are what motivate the Sierra Club Borderlands Team to keep spreading border love. Reversing the largest waiver of law in U.S. history and toppling the border wall won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

Want to get involved? Contact [email protected] to join the Borderlands Team, and sign up for our monthly Borderlands email updates.

- Dan Millis, Grand Canyon Chapter Conservation Program Coordinator

 All photographs by Krista Schlyer except photos of Scott Nicol & Julie Shipp, and where noted.

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