Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 4, 2023


Laiken Jordahl, (928) 525-4433,

Biden Administration Waives Laws to Rush Border Wall Construction Through Texas Wildlands

STARR COUNTY, Texas — The Biden administration announced today that for the first time it will waive environmental, public health and cultural resource protection laws to fast-track construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Texas. The administration says it will take “immediate action to construct barriers and roads” along the border, including through fragile habitat near the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

“It’s disheartening to see President Biden stoop to this level, casting aside our nation’s bedrock environmental laws to build ineffective wildlife-killing border walls,” said Laiken Jordahl, Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Starr County is home to some of the most spectacular and biologically important habitat left in Texas and now bulldozers are preparing to rip right through it. This is a horrific step backwards for the borderlands.”

The waiver sweeps aside 26 laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands, endangered wildlife and Indigenous grave sites. The announcement marks the first time the Biden administration has used the REAL ID Act waiver authority.

“Every acre of habitat left in the Rio Grande Valley is irreplaceable,” said Jordahl. “We can’t afford to lose more of it to a useless, medieval wall that won’t do a thing to stop immigration or smuggling. President Biden’s cynical decision to destroy crucial wildlife habitat and seal the beautiful Rio Grande behind a grotesque border wall must be stopped.”

Wall construction in Starr County could harm recovery plans for endangered ocelots, which depend on contiguous wildlife corridors of protected habitat along the Rio Grande. Two endangered plants, the Zapata bladderpod and prostrate milkweed, are endemic to the area and will likely also be threatened by wall construction with their protections stripped by the waiver.

Last month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a damning report detailing the severe damage the border wall has caused to wildlife, public lands, and Indigenous sacred sites and burial grounds along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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 and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.

Today’s action seeks to waive the following laws:

  1. National Environmental Policy Act
  2. Endangered Species Act
  3. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
  4. American Indian Religious Freedom Act
  5. Federal Water Pollution Control Act
  6. National Historic Preservation Act
  7. Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  8. Migratory Bird Conservation Act
  9. Clean Air Act
  10. National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
  11. Eagle Protection Act
  12. National Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
  13. Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
  14. Archeological Resources Protection Act
  15. Paleontological Resources Preservation Act
  16. Safe Drinking Water Act
  17. Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
  18. Noise Control Act
  19. Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  20. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
  21. Antiquities Act
  22. Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
  23. Farmland Protection Policy Act
  24. National Trails System Act
  25. Administrative Procedure Act
  26. Federal Land Policy and Management Act
Ocelot. Photo credit: Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity. Image is available for media use.

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.

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