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The Mt. Otay Wilderness Act is Waived for Border Wall

In 1999, the U.S. Congress passed the Mt. Otay Wilderness Act (MOWA), which designated 18,500 acres around Mt. Otay in Southern California as a wilderness area. This rugged wilderness in the San Ysidro Mountains near the Mexican border emerged from ancient volcanoes, and its geology, soils, and wildlife comprise a unique ecosystem in the California desert. Mt. Otay and environs gained rigorous legal protections against disturbance or damage when added to the 109 million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System.

What makes the ecosystem so unique? The Mt. Otay Wilderness area is home to many species of flora and fauna which are candidates for threatened or endangered status designation on the IUCN Red List of Threatened or Endangered species. The last known stand of Tecate Cypress survives there, as do the endangered quino checkerspot butterfly, Mexican flannel bush, and 15 other species of vulnerable plants.

MOWA is one of the 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). This time, we don’t have to speculate about the results of the waiver (photo). A draft environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared prior to wall construction stated that constructing a wall in this area would have long-term impacts on its flora, fauna, and water resources. The EIS warned that grading and road construction associated with the wall (prohibited in wilderness areas) would remove layers of topsoil and destroy fragile, intertwined plant roots that protect chaparral habitats from erosion. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security refused to publish a final EIS and instead, waived both the National Environmental Policy Act (see our first blog in this series) and MOWA so that neither final analysis nor protection of the resources was necessary.

Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives ( and let them know that you oppose waiving The Mt. Otay Wilderness 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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