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Published: November 21, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 20 — The Department of Homeland Security is ahead of schedule in building some 700 miles of fencing along the Mexican border, but some environmental groups, elected officials and local Indian tribes say too little attention is being paid to the environmental consequences of the barriers.

In the latest flash point, Homeland Security Department officials took possession of land last week in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona by brokering a land swap with another federal agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Opponents say the 12-to-15-foot-tall steel fence and its construction will disrupt the habitat of jaguars, pygmy owls and other sensitive fauna in the wildlife refuge, and encourage illegal immigrants to use more remote, ecologically delicate terrain.