Center for Biological Diversity

Borderlands & Boundary Waters

desert, mountains, saguaro, cactus, landscape, wildlife refuge
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
Photo courtesy of USFWS


The Center is proud to be a part of the No More Deaths Coalition.




The Center for Biological Diversity seeks rigorous enforcement of environmental regulations and protections along our international borders, and we work to ensure that imperiled habitats and native species are respected by the Department of Homeland Security in both terrestrial and aquatic border zones.

The U.S-Mexico border is host to a diverse array of threatened, endangered and rare species including the graceful Sonoran Pronghorn, the Lesser Long-nosed Bat, the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and the Jaguar. The border region also includes millions of acres of public lands, including Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Big Bend National Park, the Coronado National Forest, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and others. These places are often remote and rugged, and the situation on the border has provoked unprecedented human activity levels in lands that rarely have been exposed to such disturbance.



On June 6th, 2007, Congressman Raúl Grijalva (Arizona) introduced a promising piece of legislation. This bill will re-affirm the need for the Department of Homeland Security to consult with the federal land managers to find appropriate infrastructure that will support wildlife migrations and habitat connectivity. It also mandates environmental and cultural resource training for Border Patrol agents on the ground and establishes a conservation fund to research the impacts to borderland ecosystems and species. We support the Borderlands Conservation and Security Act for promoting a vision of homeland security that includes securing our public lands and wild heritage for future generations.


In late October 2006, President Bush signed into law the “Secure Fence Act of 2006 (HR 6061),” a bill with potentially devastating consequences. This law mandates the construction of 700 miles of double-layered reinforced wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, including an uninterrupted stretch from Calexico, Calif. to Douglas, Ariz. - nearly the entire length of Arizona’s boundary. This proposal neglects to address vehicle barriers and plans for vehicle barriers that have already been developed along the border and undermines the thoughtful work that land managers have already given to protecting the species and areas under their jurisdiction. READ the Secure Fence Act of 2006.


The Real ID Act, signed into law May 11, 2005 (P.L. 109-13), gave the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security the authority to “waive all legal requirements such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads [along international borders]” This exemption, when applied, allows the DHS to proceed within infrastructure projects without regard to any laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, among others. These keystone environmental laws have already been overridden in California and in Arizona.


We understand that we have a crisis on our border: a crisis of human rights, ecological destruction, homeland security and fiscal impossibility. We know that illegal immigration and drug smuggling activities harm our wild places, disrupt wildlife habitat, and generate tons of trash and miles of trails. However, we also know that this phenomenon is rooted in the basic principle of supply and demand, fueled by U.S. desire for willing immigrant labor and drugs. We believe that a rational border policy would address the root causes of the current border situation: desperate poverty in developing countries, imbalanced international trade agreements, and America’s dependence on cheap labor.

The Center for Biological Diversity is working to increase environmental and public oversight of activities affecting public lands close to the U.S.-Mexico border and to protect endangered species and their habitats from the effects of rapidly increasing militarization of the border. We continue to watch the public lands closely to ensure that the recovery of imperiled species isn’t slowed by infrastructure, and to ensure that new species aren’t being pushed to the brink. We support innovative responses and pro-active border policy.

Join our action alert system and take action when border policy is being determined