November 22, 2016

Corals to water snakes to bobcats oh my!

By Hollis Moore
Big Bend State Park, TX
October 31, 2016


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I walked up the Rio Grande from X to X (see above photo). The walk was an action to remember what lives downstream…A suggestion to find common ground in a split landscape by thinking about what two countries share… A walk up instead of across.

The Rio Grande at this point becomes the border between Texas and Mexico until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. It is here in Big Bend, that Energy Transfer Partners is planning on installing the Trans-Pecos pipeline underneath the Rio Grande. The pipeline will be near enough to groundwater and surface water that if it explodes or leaks it will cause an environmental disaster.

The Rio Grande’s mouth is in the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder how the river acts as a lifeline for the Gulf, which is still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill? Maybe it helps to flush out the contaminated salt water and sediment? If the Rio Grande does act like vein to the Gulf of Mexico, then why would we risk contaminating the Rio Grande (more than it already is)?

With these questions on my mind I walked upstream to give a voice to the marine animals and plants of the Gulf. I thought about the animals and plants I encountered over the summer while volunteering for a coral restoration project. Maybe the stories of the victims from one environmental disaster can help prevent another.

What I didn’t know during my walk was what animals I would encounter along the way. The water was too filled with milky, green sediment for me to look into the river. I noticed some dark, slithery creatures skirt away as I walked closer-probably river otters. I heard a couple of splashes and once stepped on something moving-most likely trout or catfish. I also saw something that looked like the head of a turtle, which may have been the Rio Grande slider. Or, much to my startled dismay could have been any of the dozens snakes that live in the area. Apparently all snakes can swim and rattlesnakes can even swim underwater!

Most exciting though was my encounter with a bobcat. As dusk, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, something caught my eye. I don’t know how long the bobcat had been watching me, but when I noticed it we looked at each other for several minutes. I thought the bobcat looked curious. Inside I felt enthralled, but also calm and honestly quite comfortable. I will remember the bobcat always.

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The bobcat, the river otters, fish, turtles, swimming serpents, and birds, that I met during my upstream walk deserve a voice before the Trans-Pecos pipeline is installed. This is a wild, prosperous desert ecosystem in Bend Bend and we cannot let the oil and gas companies obliterate the wildlife as they did to the dolphins, whales, birds, fish, corals, and sea turtles in the Gulf during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

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