Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 23, 2019

Contact: Jean Su, (415) 770-318, 

Lawsuit Seeks Public Records on Border Wall Plans in National Wildlife Refuges

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to release public records on President Trump’s plans to build border walls through protected national wildlife refuges. Trump plans to build new, or newly fortified, border walls through at least six refuges that preserve some of the nation’s most fragile and spectacular landscapes.

Today’s lawsuit seeks all records from the agency and national refuges that mention border walls, fences, levees or barriers, including emails, meeting notes, presentations, maps and correspondence. The Center requested the documents in July 2017 under the Freedom of Information Act, but the Trump administration has ignored that request.

“The public has a right to know the back story of Trump’s destructive border-wall obsession,” said Jean Su, an attorney at the Center. “Trump’s already waived more than two dozen public health and safety laws to build these hateful walls, but he’s apparently ashamed to admit that he’s sacrificing spectacular wilderness in the process.”

New border-wall construction will decimate the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, described by the Fish and Wildlife Service as “one of the most biodiverse regions in North America.” Trump has already built taller, sturdier replacement walls through the Tijuana Slough Wildlife Refuge near San Diego and plans to do the same in Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta and Buenos Aires refuges, with no environmental review.

Public records and news reports show federal wildlife officials warned that building border walls through the ecologically diverse borderlands region could impede animal migration and destroy key habitat for a variety of rare wildlife, including ocelots and jaguarundi. They also warned that wall construction atop levees in the Lower Rio Grande Valley could trap wildlife “to drown or starve” during floods.

“Trump is muzzling biologists and wildlife experts who’ve spent their careers protecting these irreplaceable refuges,” said Su. “He can’t be allowed to bulldoze congressionally protected public lands and waters without taking responsibility for this destruction.”

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 as the first national wildlife refuge in 1903, three years before he signed the Antiquities Act.

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

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