Garbage or Godsend?: Contested Meanings Among Conservation and Humanitarian Groups on the United States Border

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Title: Garbage or Godsend?: Contested Meanings Among Conservation and Humanitarian Groups on the United States Border
Author: Shellabarger, Rachel Marie
Advisors: M. Nils Peterson, Committee Chair
Erin Sills, Committee Member
Fred Cubbage, Committee Member
Abstract: Conservation and human rights are currently threatened by direct and indirect effects of border enforcement practices on the Arizona-Sonora border. Increased border enforcement in urban areas has pushed migrants into remote conservation areas, threatening both the vulnerable borderland ecosystems and the human migrants passing through them. This study examines responses to human and environmental impacts of border policies in the case study region of Altar Valley in southern Arizona, where migrant traffic has increased greatly as a result of the expanded border enforcement near urban centers. We use ethnographic methods to explore and understand the actions of land-management and humanitarian aid groups attempting to address the socio-ecological crises wrought by increased border enforcement, in order to look for ways to reduce the crises through a better understanding of the context. Community partners include the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, the Coronado National Forest, and the No More Deaths humanitarian aid group, all located within 25 miles of the Arizona-Sonora border. The results of this study, carried out largely during the summer of 2008, describe how the actions of land-management and humanitarian groups eventually conflicted and resulted in littering citations for the humanitarian aid volunteers who left water for migrants along trails on the wildlife refuge. The conflict was branded as an issue of conservation versus human rights. I argue that the conflict between land-management personnel and humanitarian aid volunteers arose not just from differing conservation and humanitarian goals, but from their different conceptions of problems associated with border activity and different ideas of the borderlands as a place.
Date: 2010-03-23
Degree: MS
Discipline: Natural Resources

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