Trump Waives 41 Environmental Laws to Build 100 Mile Arizona Border Wall
“The Trump administration just ignored bedrock environmental and public health laws to plow a disastrous border wall through protected, spectacular wildlands.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Wednesday that it is waiving 41 laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and endangered wildlife in order to speed through the construction of 100 miles of new border wall in federally protected land in Arizona and California.
The new wall is a “bollard-style” wall which DHS says will replace dilapidated and outdated designs. The construction will also include road construction and improvement and lighting installation.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the walls will be built through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, Coronado National Memorial and numerous designated wilderness areas.
Concern Border Wall Will Wreak Havoc on Environment, Animals
The CBD and environmentalists worry the bollard barriers will block wildlife migration, damage ecosystems and harm border communities.
“The Trump administration just ignored bedrock environmental and public health laws to plow a disastrous border wall through protected, spectacular wildlands,” said Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release. “This senseless wall would rip a scar through the heart of the Sonoran Desert, kill endangered wildlife and cause irreversible damage. We’ll do everything in our power to stop this destruction.”
In July of 2018, over 2500 scientists from around the world endorsed an article in the academic journal BioScience that warned a physical barrier could produce devastating ecological effects while hampering binational conservation efforts.
The border area between the U.S. and Mexico is home to some of North America’s greatest biodiversity and rich terrain which includes forests, grasslands and salt marshes. The land is home to more than 1,500 native animal and plant species according to the paper.
The paper warned that some of the species would potentially become extinct in the U.S. if President Trump builds his proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The authors highlight that the potential hazards of the proposed wall were first highlighted in 2005 when the U.S Congress passed the Real ID Act. The Real ID Act gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to bypass any laws including the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act that would slow the construction of the border wall.
Man-made structures such as walls destroy the living spaces of animals and plants and can also cause the soil surrounding to become infertile for long periods which disrupts ecosystems. Walls prevent animals from finding food, water, mates and disrupt annual and seasonal migration patterns. Construction can also erode soil and disrupt natural water flows.
“Any substantial construction ordinarily forces populations to extinction directly by outright destruction of their habitat or by reducing population size or restricting access to critical areas required seasonally. Every time you see a strip mall, airport or housing development being constructed, you can be sure biodiversity is suffering. Many hundreds of miles of border wall and the accompanying construction and maintenance infrastructure would be a crime against biodiversity,” study author Paul Ehrlich said to the Stanford Report.
The paper proposed a multitude of solutions including designing barriers for maximum wildlife permeability and restoring wildlife habitats that have been damaged by barrier construction. The paper also recommended the DHS be required to identify habitats and animals at risk from barrier construction.
“Aside from effects on water flows and other natural services, the wall could rob us of iconic creatures such as the endangered Peninsular Bighorn sheep and the Sonoran pronghorn antelope,” Ehrlich warned. “There’s also an economic loss to consider—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching contributed nearly $26 billion to border state economies in 2011.”
DHS Claims it Will Minimize Environmental Impact
In response to the environmental concerns raised by new border wall construction, DHS said in a press release, “DHS remains committed to environmental stewardship. DHS has initiated consultation with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure that impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the greatest extent possible.”
DHS considers the Tucson and El Centro sectors to be areas of “high illegal entry” that “are experiencing large numbers of individuals and narcotics being smuggled into the country illegally.”
Thus, according to DHS, “The construction of border infrastructure within these project areas will support DHS’s ability to impede and deny illegal border crossings and the drug and human smuggling activities of transnational criminal organizations.”
DHS ended its press release with a suggestion that more bollard-style border fencing will be built along the Southern U.S. border:
“DHS continues to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13767 – also known as Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements – and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.”