18
October
2018
|
10:24 PM
America/New_York

For Immediate Release

Lawsuit Challenges Texas Border Wall Waivers

WASHINGTON (October 18, 2018) – Today Defenders of Wildlife joined a coalition of conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and Animal Legal Defense Fund, in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration over its illegal orders to waive 28 environmental and public-safety laws to accelerate border wall construction in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., states that the Department of Homeland Security lacks the legal authority to sweep aside fundamental protections for public lands, air, water and wildlife, including the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act.

The administration seeks to bypass these laws to force construction of more than 24 miles of new wall in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties, including segments that would wall off parcels of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, as well as Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, the National Butterfly Center and the La Lomita chapel in Mission, Texas.

A map created by Defenders’ experts depicts where the proposed wall segments in Hidalgo County would bisect and fragment the refuge, effectively severing essential habitat from the United States and causing extensive damage to the wildlife corridor along the river.

Similar waivers in Cameron County would likewise cause irreparable harm to vital wildlands and the species that depend on them, blocking wildlife migration routes and exacerbating flooding.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:

“In its attempt to subvert bedrock environmental and public safety laws to force through an unnecessary and divisive border wall, the Trump administration is showing its true colors. Not only is this proposal unconstitutional, it would devastate wildlife, wildlands and border communities.

“The administration’s complete disregard for our natural and national heritage is appalling. It isn’t even pretending to listen to the public. We will fight these reckless proposals in court to protect the Lower Rio Grande Valley for future generations.”

Background:

  • The public comment period on the Rio Grande Valley wall construction projects is open until November 6th.
  • Known as the “Wildlife Corridor,” Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge conserves a crucial east-west corridor along 275 river miles from the Gulf of Mexico inland, to sustain the world class biodiversity of the Rio Grande Valley.
  • Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of more than 100 parcels of unique habitat connecting otherwise isolated state, private and federal lands. It benefits rare migratory birds and imperiled species like the ocelot.
  • Located at an ecological crossroads where subtropical, temperate, coastal and desert systems converge, and at the confluence of the Mississippi and Central flyways, the refuge protects some of the most diverse habitats in the continental United States.
  • Over nearly 40 years, taxpayers have spent more than $75 million to acquire the Lower Rio Grande Valley Refuge wildlife corridor, and millions more to support regional habitat connectivity. Border wall construction through this corridor will essentially throw that investment away.
  • Lower Rio Grande Valley is home to more than 700 vertebrate species, 300 species of butterfly, more than 500 bird species and at least 18 threatened or endangered species, including the highly-endangered ocelot and jaguarundi.
  • The Trump administration has also waived environmental laws in its border wall construction efforts in California and New Mexico.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 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 Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.