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Conservation Groups Sue Trump Over Border-Wall Funding

The Mexican gray wolf is one of several endangered species that would have its habitat reduced and fragmented if the U.S.-Mexico border wall is completed. (Roni/Adobe Stock)
The Mexican gray wolf is one of several endangered species that would have its habitat reduced and fragmented if the U.S.-Mexico border wall is completed. (Roni/Adobe Stock)







May 13, 2020

PHOENIX -- A coalition of conservation groups is suing the Trump administration to stop border-wall construction in Arizona and other states that border Mexico.

The groups are trying to halt the transfer of $7.2 billion from the Defense Department for construction. They're also challenging the legality of waivers that eliminate dozens of environmental and public-health laws to fast-track the project.

Bryan Bird, southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said more miles of wall could spell the end for some endangered species, cutting off the last remaining wildlife corridors and migration routes between the two countries.

"Scientists have identified several places along the Arizona-New Mexico border where jaguars and Mexican gray wolves and Sonoran pronghorn are still able to cross," he said, "and it's critical to their recovery from their endangered-species status."

Plaintiffs in the case are Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. By late Tuesday, administration officials had not commented on the legal action.

By continuing the construction during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bird said, the administration also endangers people who live along the border.

"Workers coming in to build the border walls, they're creating man camps and other types of clusters of activity that could cause the spread of the virus," he said, "so, not only is it putting the environment at risk down there by building the wall, but now, they're putting all these communities at risk."

Attorney Jason Rylander, senior counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, said the group filed a similar lawsuit last year that's pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. He said Tuesday's lawsuit also asserts that the most recent actions are unconstitutional.

"We are concerned about the rule of law, and about this administration's usurpation of the right to decide public policy," he said. "You take that right from Congress by waiving duly enacted laws and then swiping money from one fund to pay for another when Congress did not authorize it."

In 2016, President Donald Trump campaigned that he would build a wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The administration has vowed to complete at least 450 miles of wall over the almost 2,000-mile border by the end of 2020.

The lawsuit is online at defenders.org.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ