Trump’s Border Wall Hit With Environmental Challenge

TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – The Trump administration has been served with the first lawsuit over the proposed border wall, with environmentalists claiming federal agencies haven’t done any analysis of the wall’s impact since 2001.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, and the Center for Biological Diversity claim in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that the feds have failed to perform an analysis of how the nearly 2,000-mile wall will affect the environment.

The environmentalists filed suit under the National Environmental Policy Act against Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan in Tucson Federal Court.

In the complaint, Grijalva and the Tucson-based nonprofit claim that no environmental analysis for the border has been performed since 2001, despite clear changes in U.S. policy on border security measures.

“(T)he southern border enforcement program has expanded and changed far more rapidly than at any other time in the nation’s history,” the lawsuit says. “These changes to the southern border enforcement program are ‘substantial,’ and are resulting in environmental impacts that were not adequately considered or foreseen in the last supplemental environmental analysis of U.S.-Mexico border enforcement activities in 2001.”

According to the complaint, the wall may have a negative impact on threatened or endangered species like jaguars and ocelots, which regularly cross the border between Arizona and Mexico.

Twenty-seven threatened or endangered species live in one 50-mile section of the planned wall, the lawsuit says.

“Endangered species like jaguars and ocelots don’t observe international boundaries and should not be sacrificed for unnecessary border militarization,” Kieran Suckling, the center’s executive director, said in a statement. “Their survival and recovery depends on being able to move long distances across the landscape and repopulate places on both sides of the border where they’ve lived for thousands of years.”

Increases in security measures along the border have not only impacted populations of species, but also protected parks.

“This intensification and expansion of border enforcement activities has resulted in impacts to large expanses of federal lands including national parks, national forests, national conservation areas and wilderness areas, state and local protected areas and parks, international biosphere reserves, rare habitat including wetlands and desert streams and rivers, and numerous threatened and endangered species including desert bighorn sheep and jaguars,” the complaint says.

Grijalva, who has served as congressman since 2003, is a ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. His district spans about 300 miles along the Arizona-Mexico border, and north to portions of Phoenix.

“American environmental laws are some of the oldest and strongest in the world, and they should apply to the borderlands just as they do everywhere else,” Grijalva said in a statement. “These laws exist to protect the health and well-being of our people, our wildlife, and the places they live. Trump’s wall – and his fanatical approach to our southern border – will do little more than perpetuate human suffering while irrevocably damaging our public lands and the wildlife that depend on them.”

The conservationists say the U.S. Department of Homeland Security must perform a new analysis of the environmental impact of security operations along the border before any wall is built.

They specifically want the report to address the department’s actions through Customs and Border Protection that have “deployed thousands of new enforcement agents, increased off-road vehicle patrols, constructed or reconstructed thousands of miles of roads, erected hundreds of miles of border walls and fencing, and installed stadium lighting, radio towers, and remote sensors, among other actions, with environmental impacts far beyond those projected and analyzed” in 1994 and 2001 reports.

Homeland Security began reviewing bids this month for construction of the border wall, a staple of President Donald Trump’s candidacy. The department says construction of the wall may cost nearly $22 billion.

The agencies do not comment on pending litigation.

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