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Defend the Sonoran Desert--Defeat the Border Wall

The Sonoran Desert ecosystem, including its native animals and plants, is facing a huge threat to its continued viability. In addition to the everyday threats of population growth, climate change, invasive species, and habitat destruction, the Sonoran Desert ecosystem now faces an issue of immediate and catastrophic impact: the construction of the wall President Trump promised to build during his 2016 presidential campaign.

The proposed Trump wall along the entire length of the border with Mexico would bisect the Sonoran Desert from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, wildlife movement patterns that have existed for thousands of years would be disrupted, and human communities and economies would be negatively impacted as well.

To accelerate its ability to construct the wall, the Trump Administration has waived 37 Federal laws (and related state, local, and other laws) that offer citizens the opportunity to participate in government decisions concerning the protection of the environment and our cultural heritage. An example of a federal law that has been waived is the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Since 1970, NEPA has protected our water, air, land, and wildlife from activities that could cause irreparable harm and has allowed public oversight over government projects on public lands.

In the case of the construction of a wall on our southern border, NEPA would require the government to analyze and propose alternatives to this project. If no viable alternatives to a border wall could be found, NEPA would then require an analysis of how a wall should be constructed and where it should be placed. NEPA also would require that the government allow for a period of public review and comment before any action was taken. By waiving NEPA, the Trump Administration makes it clear that it wants to dispense with public oversight over government actions concerning our environment, setting a potentially catastrophic precedent for the management of our public lands.

The Trump wall will cost tens of billions of dollars to build and is neither needed nor wanted by the Border Patrol in its efforts to maintain border security. The Border Patrol does favor walls in human populated areas, but its primary strategy for a majority of the border is to defend the border with mobile agents, electronic surveillance, and barriers to vehicles (and people) as needed.

The construction of a border wall is opposed by a majority of Americans and many members of Congress, particularly those whose constituents live near the U.S./Mexican border. And we have recently learned from leaked conversations between Mr. Trump and the President of Mexico that the proposed wall is not even a top priority for President Trump.

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