Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 18, 2017

Contact: Brian Segee, (805) 750-8852,

Public Records Sought for Trump's Border-wall Plans in Wildlife Refuges

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests seeking public records connected to President Trump's plans to build border walls through protected national wildlife refuges.

The requests seek documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife refuges along the U.S.-Mexico border, from the Tijuana Slough near San Diego, Calif. to the Santa Ana refuge south of McAllen, Texas. The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is one of the nation's premier birding destinations, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection are already at work on the first piece of Trump's “impenetrable” wall.

“Trump's border wall gets crueler and more destructive every day. Now he's targeting public lands and waters specifically set aside to protect America's wildlife,” said Brian Segee, a Center attorney. “Even worse, he's trying to keep all this from the public because he knows there'll be an uproar.”

The FOIA requests seek all records since Trump took office that mention border walls, fences, levees or barriers, including meeting notes, presentations, maps and correspondence. It's the latest in a series of Centeractions against the Trump administration's border wall projects, which violate a host of environmental laws, threaten endangered species, and affect human rights and civil liberties.

“Trump can't just bulldoze his way through fragile wildlife refuges to fulfill a vile campaign promise,” Segee said. “These places belong to all of us, and we'll fight like hell to save them.”

The national wildlife refuge system has grown to more than 562 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge as the first wildlife refuge in 1903.

Background on the Border
In June the Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection over threats to endangered species and critical habitat from building 20 border-wall prototypes in San Diego County. Earlier this month the Center expanded that lawsuit to challenge the Trump administration's plans to replace the 14-mile westernmost segment of the border wall, from the Pacific Ocean to the Otay Mesa area.

In addition to challenging the agencies' failure to release public records concerning the prototype project, the Center added claims that the agencies are violating the National Environmental Policy Act with respect to both the prototypes and the 14-mile border wall replacement project. In both cases Homeland Security and the Border Patrol completely failed to conduct any prior environmental analysis or involve the public in the decision-making process.

In May the Center released a study that identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be imperiled by proposed wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

Also that month the Center:

  • Submitted FOIA requests to Homeland Security and the Border Patrol for records related to the border-wall prototype project, including all records related to compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.
  • Sued the Army Corps of Engineers and Border Patrol for failing to provide briefing materials prepared for Trump's transition team that discuss construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

In April the Center and U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, filed the first lawsuit against the Trump administration over the proposed border wall and other border-security measures, calling on Homeland Security to conduct an in-depth investigation of overall border-security environmental impacts.

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 Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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