Ecological Consequences of Building Border Walls

From the Global Justice Advocacy Team

Donald Trump wants to erect a 30-foot wall across the U.S. Mexican border. There are currently about 650 miles of border wall, but the Trump administration would complete roughly 1,400 more miles. Not many people are asking about the environmental impact these walls.

Dan Mills, the Borderlands Researcher for Sierra Club, is alarmed by the impact of border walls on the environment. Here are three concerns. According to a 2011 study, the fences on our southern U.S. border pose significant risk to four wildlife refuges and as many as 111 endangered species—among them five critically endangered animals—by significantly reducing/isolating the gene pool.

In addition, the wall interrupts drainage and water flow. Nogales, Arizona, for example, was not a flood area until the border wall was installed. Now when there is a major rain, Nogales, Mexico, has floods of as much as six feet, destroying homes and businesses.

Another issue is even more alarming. Normally, local, state, and federal laws protect endangered species, ensure clean air and water, and allow local communities a say in new federal projects. However, in 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which included an unprecedented provision allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive all local, state and federal laws—including 37 Acts of Congress—that the secretary deems an impediment to building a wall. The waiver is a grave threat to national parks, many species, and Native American cultures.

Federal laws that can be waived include: National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Parks and Recreation Act, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Thanks to the REAL ID Act, Homeland Security is now operating above the law, with zero accountability to those who have been collaborating for decades to protect the diversity of life along the U.S.-Mexico border. For more information see www.sierraclub.org/borderlands/laws-waived-border.