For Immediate Release
Trump Administration Waives Environmental Laws to Build Border Wall through Texas National Wildlife Refuge
WASHINGTON (October 10, 2018) – The Trump administration has announced that it will waive 28 federal environmental, planning, historic preservation and public safety laws in Hidalgo County, Texas, in an effort to accelerate construction of new border wall along our southern border. The notice was published in the prepublication Federal Register today. The document identifies more than 18 miles of new wall segments for waiver, including an eight-mile section that will effectively sever and 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 newly waived 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.
The Department of Homeland Security also published today in the Federal Register with a similar waiver for smaller wall segments in adjacent Cameron County that will allow “expeditious construction of barriers and roads” along the border.
The Hidalgo County waiver will be officially posted and take effect tomorrow, October 11.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife issued this statement:
“This waiver is the latest attempt by this administration to ram through construction of an unnecessary, expensive and damaging border wall. Waiving environmental, health and safety laws, and purposefully excluding the public from providing input on wall construction threatens wildlife, local communities and regional economies in the Southwest."
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.