Proposed Border Wall Funding Threatens Wildlife, Communities

Media contact: Catalina Tresky, (202) 772-0253 or ctresky@defenders.org

 

SANTA FE (May 23, 2017) – The Trump administration released its FY 2018 budget proposal today, which includes funding for an expansion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“Funding the expansion of the southern border wall is a non-starter. It’s a misuse of funding that should instead be used for programs that keep our air and water clean and protect our wildlife and wild places. President Trump’s dirty budget is a sellout of our nation’s natural heritage.

“An impenetrable wall would divide families and communities along the border and bisect and isolate important Southwestern landscapes, pushing borderland wildlife like jaguars, Mexican gray wolves and ocelots to the brink of extinction. Extinction is forever, and as nature goes, so will we.

“Congress should oppose any budget proposals that aim to construct this border wall, which would ultimately shred the fabric of our core American values – equality, justice and the preservation of our natural heritage.”

Background

Wildlife along the Border 

More than 600 miles of border walls and barriers have been constructed in all four southern border states – California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

In California, border barriers affect more than a dozen endangered and rare species, including the endangered Arroyo toad and Quino checkerspot butterfly. Any extension of the border wall would bisect the Tijuana River that meanders through the locally protected Marron Valley in San Diego County and the federally protected Jacumba Wilderness Area, cutting off important migration routes for the highly endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep, devastating recovery efforts.

In Arizona, the border wall significantly affects the Sonoran Desert, home to endangered Sonoran pronghorn, cactus ferruginous pygmy owls and desert tortoises, and the world-renowned Sky Islands, so named for the “islands” of forested habitat rising out of a “sea” of surrounding desert and grasslands.

In New Mexico, important wildlife habitats are found in the state’s ‘boot heel,’ a mosaic of public and private lands largely managed for conservation. There are also expansive U.S. Forest Service lands in the state that are critical for jaguar movement between the U.S. and Mexico.

In Texas, walls and barriers block people and animals from access to the Rio Grande River, an iconic and vital water source for communities and wildlife alike.

Border Wall Policy

Section 102 of the 2005 REAL ID Act gave the Secretary of Homeland Security unprecedented power to waive any federal, state, or local law to construct roads and barriers along the border. This waiver has already been invoked five times to exempt the department from more than 35 environmental laws to construct roads and barriers along the Southwest border, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Antiquities Act and National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act.

In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture issued a Memorandum of Understanding that set forth goals, principles and guidance on border security implementation, minimizing and preventing significant impact on natural and cultural resources while efficiently and effectively implementing the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws, regulations and policies.

On Jan. 25, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” which called for the expansion of the border wall.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.