For Immediate Release, March 24, 2022

Contact:

Brian Segee, Center for Biological Diversity, (805) 750-8852, bsegee@biologicaldiversity.org
Mike Andrade-Heymsfield, Animal Legal Defense Fund, (707) 364-8387, media@aldf.org
Peter Clerkin, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 390-3719, pclerkin@defenders.org

Agreement Prohibits Military Spending on Border Wall, Requires Restoration, Damage Study

WASHINGTON— Several federal agencies and the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Legal Defense Fund reached an agreement today that prohibits military spending on border walls.

Today’s agreement also calls for funding to restore the borderlands, a study to assess the wall’s damage to wildlife habitat, and public participation in ongoing federal efforts to repair harms from former President Donald Trump’s border wall. The agreement stems from the conservation groups’ 2019 lawsuit challenging the Trump emergency declaration that sidestepped Congress and funneled millions in Defense Department funding to border-wall construction.

“While no military funds should’ve been wasted on Trump’s destructive wall, this agreement at least puts a stop to it,” said Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the Center. “The wall and its infrastructure, including lights and roads, have carved a monstrous scar across one of the most biodiverse regions on the continent. Now federal agencies will have to take stock of the damage and begin the important work of trying to heal this environmental and humanitarian disaster.”

The February 2019 lawsuit said Trump overstepped his executive authority to appropriate billions of dollars to construct walls along the southern border and illegally invoked the National Emergencies Act, reallocating military funding in a nonemergency situation to fund a policy goal.

“The previous administration’s disregard for wildlife in critical protected refuges, forests and conservation areas to illegally construct a wall along the border could lead to devastating long-term impacts that will require study and monitoring for years to come,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “While the government’s national emergency powers should have never been used for this purpose, we hope this step helps prevent further damage to these communities and ensure such actions don’t occur again in the future.”

This agreement settles the 2019 case, as well as a related 2020 lawsuit against the Trump administration that challenged additional military spending on the border wall, which sealed off the remaining jaguar corridors along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This agreement halts one of the Trump administration’s most destructive and enduring follies,” said Mike Senatore, vice president of conservation law for Defenders of Wildlife. “The wall is responsible for blocking critical cross-border wildlife corridors and impeding recovery efforts for endangered species like the Mexican gray wolf and jaguar. Defenders will continue to fight for the protection of the rule of law against reckless decisions that put our communities and wildlife at risk.”

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 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

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.