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November 25, 2013

Borderlands Activist Wins National Outdoor Book Award

Krista-SchlyerPhoto by Chris Linder

The National Outdoor Book Awards has named Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall, by photographer, writer, and borderlands activist Krista Schlyer, as the winner of the 2013 award for Nature and the Environment.


When Schlyer learned that hundreds of miles of border walls recently built along the U.S.-Mexico border were causing damage to sensitive wildlands and wildlife, she took notice. More important, she took photographs. These photos, along with a well-researched narrative of the wild places of the borderlands, fill the 292 colorful pages of Continental Divide.


"This is groundbreaking work," says National Outdoor Book Awards Chair Ron Watters. "The effects of the border wall on the environment have been left out of the national discourse, but Krista casts a bright light on this forgotten part of the debate."


"Krista's writing and photography raise awareness about threats to land, air, water, and wildlife in our borderlands," says Dan Millis, leader of the Sierra Club's Borderlands Team and Conservation Program Coordinator for the Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. "Continental Divide is engaging, stunningly beautiful, and has a tremendous impact on us, the audience. For years, Krista has been a steadfast and powerful advocate for borderlands conservation, and she has helped Sierra Club bring the work of the Borderlands Team to a whole new level."


Maryland-based Schlyer, a volunteer leader with the Club's Borderlands Campaign, says she wrote Continental Divide to help people understand what's at stake in the borderlands. "The fate of endangered jaguars, Sonoran pronghorn, ocelots, one of the last five free-ranging bison herds in North America, rare ecosystems that don't exist anywhere else in the United States -- all of these are jeopardized by the border wall. What are we willing to sacrifice for our war on the border?


"I saw this herd of bison crossing the border fence back when it was just a barbed-wire fence, and I later learned that they were traveling between their main water source in Mexico and their main food source back in the U.S. This was in 2007, just as the U.S. government was starting construction of the border wall. The wall now blocks migrations not just by bison, but thousands of other creatures that call the borderlands region home."


Working with the International League of Conservation Photographers, Schlyer organized a border-wide expedition to photograph landscapes, wildlife, and the impacts of the walls and the border buildup. The result was a photo exhibition that has toured around the country, and Schlyer's subsequent work culminated in Continental Divide.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already built more than 650 miles of walls and metal fencing along the 1,950-mile border separating the United States and Mexico, and another 700 miles of wall and fencing are planned. When Congress authorized the border wall, it allowed Homeland Security to waive environmental laws near the border, and as a result, the wall has devastated wildlife migration paths. It has also rerouted human traffic through the most pristine and sensitive of wild lands, including wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and national forests.

The-borderlandsMap courtesy of Texas A&M University Press

"Continental Divide is an important work on nature, and it's timely," says Waters, the National Outdoor Book Award chair. "It is the judges' hope that the book plays a role in jump-starting a more fully informed debate on the wall."


Watch this video trailer about Continental Divide, learn more about the Sierra Club's Borderlands Campaign, and get involved with the Borderlands Team.

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