More Than a Border: The Endangered Lower Rio Grande

Before it’s a border, it’s a river. Join us to say no to President Trump’s border wall that would harm the Lower Rio Grande, its communities, and its wildlife.

Rio Grande | Ben Masters

You can’t wall off a river and expect the river, its wildlife, or its people, to survive. That’s why we put the Lower Rio Grande on the list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2018.

“The Rio Grande is so much more than a border,” says Chris Williams, Senior Vice President for Conservation at American Rivers.

“It is a life-giving source of water, a cultural crossroads, a pillar for local economies, a scenic treasure, and a unique freshwater ecosystem. Construction of a border wall, unhindered by any meaningful environmental review, disrupts and damages that ecosystem, impacting everything that depends on it.”

President Trump has proposed the construction of hundreds of miles of new border walls along the Rio Grande, and Congress has agreed to fund this first phase of construction. The first 30 miles of this new phase of wall building have already been mapped, and preparations are under way for construction in the Lower Rio Grande floodplain.

River guide Austin Alvarado. “Before the Rio Grande is a border, it’s a river,” he says. | Photo: Ben Masters

Much of this new construction will be “levee-walls”— essentially a steel fence on top of a large levee— that will cut the Rio Grande off from its floodplain, potentially exacerbating flooding and erosion and blocking access to this life-giving resource for people and wildlife.

In the coming years, President Trump will likely push Congress to fund additional border wall construction. Trump has called the current $1.57 billion appropriation a “down payment” on an eventual $25 billion over ten years.

We’re calling on Congress to refuse to appropriate another penny for this damaging and wasteful project.


New Rio Grande border walls will have multiple impacts: habitat corridors will be severed and endangered species will be pushed closer to extinction; natural inflows into the river will be disrupted; wetlands will be destroyed; floodwaters will be deflected, potentially moving the river channel; flooding in communities along the river will be worsened; and access to the river for residents and landowners will be disrupted.

In addition to the Lower Rio Grande, America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2018 is a snapshot of some of our nation’s most beloved and iconic rivers in the crosshairs. The list includes:

In our many years of issuing the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, we’ve seldom seen a collection of threats this severe, or an administration so bent on undermining and reversing protections for clean water, rivers and public health.

Your support is vital as we fight for America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2018, and rivers nationwide.