Trump's border wall would be "catastrophe" for wildlife, expert says

President Trump’s proposed border wall has been hotly debated as a political, economic and human rights issue ever since it emerged as a signature part of his campaign platform. But it’s also a major conservation issue, wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin argues. 

“The impact will be huge. It will be an environmental catastrophe,” Corwin told CBS News on Wednesday. 

Corwin, a nature conservationist known for his television work on the cable network Animal Planet, is concerned that the wall will dramatically disrupt what has been “nature’s corridor through North and South America” for millions of years now. 

At least 89 endangered or threatened species would be impacted by the border wall, according to information from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 

The wall would cut through huge swaths of national parks, wildlife refuges, and pristine estuaries, Corwin said. Animals along the border could see their migration routes blocked, access to important resources curtailed, and water supplies cut off. 

The affected animals would include such rare species as the jaguar, Mexican gray wolf, mountain lion, and whitetail deer. All these animals are on the cusp of disappearance to different degrees: the Mexican gray wolf, for instance, is the most endangered subspecies of wolf in the world, according to Defenders of Wildlife. 

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In the undated image provided by the Center for Biological Diversity, a wild jaguar roams in the mountains just south of Tucson, Arizona. Jaguars are one of the 89 endangered and threatened species expected to be directly impacted by the president’s proposed border wall. 

AP

Many of these animals require mobility across the border in order to mate, escape cold weather, and so on. 

“These animals are hardwired — they’re instinctively driven to follow these natural pathways that these species have been doing for millions of years,” Corwin said.

According to contracting notices, the border wall would be approximately 30 feet high. The president has consistently maintained that Mexico will pay for the wall, which Mexican leaders have emphatically refused to do. 

Corwin reached out to the Trump administration to discuss the wildlife issues but received no response, he told CBS News. 

Between the proposed border wall and Trump’s executive order rolling back Obama-era clean energy regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency, Corwin said the administration appears to be “waging an all-out war against wildlife and habitat.”

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    Shanika Gunaratna covers science and technology for CBSNews.com