Defenders of Wildlife Supports New Bills Aimed at Blocking Border Wall Construction
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 6, 2017
MEDIA CONTACT: Catalina Tresky: (202) 772-0253 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON (Feb. 6, 2017) – Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM-1st) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives late Thursday, H.R. 837, “Build Bridges Not Walls,” which aims to prohibit any construction of a continuous wall or fence along the Southwestern border. On Monday, Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13th) introduced a similar bill, H.R. 739, “This Land is Our Land Act,” which would prohibit the Secretary of Homeland Security from constructing any new border barriers on public lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture or the Secretary of the Interior.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:
“There are many reasons why constructing a wall across the entire southern border with Mexico is a bad idea. In addition to dividing families and promoting a racist and xenophobic agenda, the border wall would also bisect and isolate iconic Southwestern landscapes and push vulnerable borderland species such as jaguars, Mexican gray wolves and ocelots to the brink of extinction. This outrageously expensive and impenetrable barrier would ultimately shred the fabric of our core American values – equality, justice and the preservation of our natural heritage.
“Defenders of Wildlife supports Representatives Lujan Grisham and Espaillat’s bills, both of which aim to preserve America’s wildlife and public lands. Their bold leadership on opposing this destructive border wall reflects their commitment to American values and our important bi-national partnership with Mexico. We encourage other members of Congress to take their lead.
“For people pursuing a better life and borderland wildlife fighting to survive, a border wall will not solve problems; it will only create or exacerbate them.”
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.
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.