Bulldozers Aimed at Wildlife Refuge, State Park, Historic Chapel, Family Farms. Featured image: by Kara Clauser, Center for Biological Diversity.
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas— The Trump administration announced today that it will waive dozens of environmental laws to speed border-wall construction through protected Rio Grande Valley property, including a national wildlife refuge and famed butterfly center.
Border walls in Hidalgo County, Texas, would cut through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, National Butterfly Center, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, and the grounds of the historic La Lomita Chapel, as well as hundreds of family farms and other private property.
“The Trump administration is ignoring thousands of people in Hidalgo County who don’t want these disastrous border walls,” said Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Rio Grande Valley is one of the most spectacular and biologically important landscapes in the country. Every acre is irreplaceable. We’ll do everything in our power to stop this destruction.”
The waiver, to take effect Thursday, is intended to speed about 18 miles of border-wall construction by sweeping aside 28 bedrock environmental and public-health laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and endangered wildlife. This is the fifth time the Trump administration has used the REAL ID waiver. The Center is considering whether to challenge the waiver in court.
The waiver is being issued during a comment period for border-wall construction in Hidalgo County, where so far more than 8,500 people say they oppose the plan. U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened the comment periodin September after the Center and 42 groups requested public input. Comments remain open until Nov. 6.
“It’s appalling that the Trump administration is willing to seize family farms by eminent domain and bulldoze beautiful nature reserves that support the local economy,” Jordahl said. “Trump is ripping the Rio Grande Valley in two for political sport. His despicable disregard for the law and the borderlands must be stopped.”
A 2017 study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be threatened by wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Endangered and threatened species in the area include the ocelot, jaguarundi and aplomado falcon, as well as a host of migratory birds.
The Center is suing the Trump administration over its use of the long-expired waiver for border-wall construction at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico. The Center is also appealing a federal court ruling in its lawsuit to stop the border wall replacement project near San Diego.
Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.
The proposal seeks to waive these laws:
- The National Environmental Policy Act
- The Endangered Species Act
- The Clean Water Act
- The National Historic Preservation Act
- The Migratory Bird Treaty Act
- The Migratory Bird Conservation Act
- The Clean Air Act
- The Archeological Resources Protection Act
- The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act
- The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act
- The Safe Drinking Water Act
- The Noise Control Act
- The Solid Waste Disposal Act
- The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
- The Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
- The Antiquities Act
- The Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
- The Farmland Protection Policy Act
- The Coastal Zone Management Act
- The Federal Land Policy and Management Act
- The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
- The National Fish and Wildlife Act
- The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
- The Administrative Procedure Act
- The River and Harbors Act
- The Eagle Protection Act
- The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
- The American Indian Religious Freedom Act