TUCSON, Ariz,— The Trump administration’s latest border wall plan, which would wall off the last jaguar migration paths and bulldoze Arizona’s Sky Island mountains, has drawn opposition from thousands of people across the country.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Sky Island Alliance submitted more than 8,200 comments from people opposing Trump’s waiver of dozens of environmental and public health laws and calling for an immediate halt to wall construction.
“These walls will destroy Arizona’s spectacular Sky Island mountains and be a death sentence for jaguars in the United States,” said Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The public has spoken loud and clear against Trump’s disastrous border wall. They’re demanding that Trump restore justice to the borderlands and stop ripping this beautiful region apart with his wall of hate.”
Trump wants to build 74 miles of border walls in remote, mountainous terrain that corresponds with the remaining corridors jaguars use to move back and forth between the United States and a small breeding population of jaguars in Sonora, Mexico. Many other species use these remote areas to migrate across the landscape. A 2017 Center report identified 93 threatened and endangered species along the 2,000-mile border that would be harmed by Trump’s wall.
“Border wall construction is stripping border communities of their rights to environmental and health protections, and destroying land, wildlife habitat and neighborhoods in the process,” said Dan Millis with the Sierra Club. “Trump’s walls are being built without regard for 65 laws that protect public health, clean air and water, endangered species and cultural resources across border states. This excessive use of waivers is just another example of this administration's abuse of power and complete disregard for communities and the environment.”
Wall construction has accelerated across the borderlands despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of miles of new construction have been announced in recent months, including through the remote Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, Tinajas Altas Mountains and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
“These walls are being built with a complete disregard for law and science, cutting off vital pathways that wildlife need to move around to reach food, water, and mates,” said Emily Burns with Sky Island Alliance. “Further wall construction would stop wildlife in their tracks, putting animals like box turtles, pronghorn, coatis, pygmy owls and black bears at risk — and ending the recovery of iconic species such as jaguar and ocelots in the U.S.”
This week, the Center and allies sued to challenge Trump’s transfer of $7.2 billion from the Department of Defense for wall construction. These groups have also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review federal court rulings allowing the Trump administration to waive laws to speed border-wall construction from the Pacific Ocean to the Rio Grande Valley.
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.