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The Military Lands Withdrawal Act is Waived for Border Wall

Sometimes, in order to defend our country, the U.S. military “withdraws and reserves” certain public lands for military training and other uses. The Military Lands Withdrawal Act (MLWA) of 1999 put forth standards for protecting that land while being used by the military. It requires that the Secretaries of the Air Force, Marines, and Department of the Interior jointly prepare and implement management plans to protect public lands withdrawn for military use. These three secretaries are responsible for all environmental requirements for such lands, and when the period of military use is over, they are also responsible for environmental repair and amelioration. The MLWA states that a program of decontamination must be implemented when public land has been contaminated as a result of military use. Further, the law states that if the military service in charge permits another federal agency to operate on withdrawn and reserved lands falling under this law, that third agency must assume all responsibility and liability for their activities in relationship to the land.

The MLWA is one of 48 federal laws waived to expedite the construction of a border wall (click here for a list of all 48 laws that have been waived). What are the consequences to the Sonoran Desert of waiving the MLWA? A large portion of the Sonoran desert in western Arizona is the Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR), consisting of about 1.7 million acres of public land withdrawn for use by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marines. About 37 miles of the BMRG is on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Waiving the MLWA means that lands withdrawn for military use in the BMGR may be damaged or destroyed by the Border Patrol without consequence. Management plans may be overridden and it is no longer necessary to decontaminate land or do any environmental repair as the result of construction of the border wall.

As children we learn to clean up after ourselves when we make a mess. At the site of wall construction, associated roads, sensors, and other border infrastructure, this rule no longer applies.

Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives ( and let them know that you oppose waiving The Military Lands Withdrawal Act to expedite construction of a border wall. Click here if you would like to make a donation to help us fight the border wall.

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