Flight Risk

“It’s a bird’s-eye view,” refuge manager Gisela Chapa promised as we climbed the observation tower steps at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. It was a cold and windy March day, and we’d almost elected to stay in the warmth of her government-issued Escape Hybrid SUV. But as soon as we reached the top it was plain to see why Chapa insisted we brave the weather.Bundled in a brown U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service parka, Chapa oriented me: To the south, factory smoke rising from maquiladoras in Mexico. To the west, the Chase Tower in McAllen, part of the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States. To the north, Military Highway, with truck traffic carrying goods to and from the border. Everywhere, fields of kale and sorghum and sugar cane that encircle the refuge like a lasso. “It’s the big-picture view of habitat connectivity, habitat fragmentation, urban development, the river and our neighbors to the south,” she said. “It’s my favorite spot. It synthesizes everything.” Keep reading at the Texas Observer.

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