The Border Wall and the Environment

Photo by Tony Webster | CC BY 2.0

One of the only good things about the failure of Congress to agree upon the future of DACA recipients (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is that Trump’s fantasy about a border wall was not funded yet (which you may remember Mexico was going to pay for).

Many see the Border Wall controversy as a humanitarian issue and a financial folly. Worse, according to many experts, a border wall would be ineffective in preventing illegal immigration.

However, yet another lesser known aspect of the Border Wall controversy is the recent introduction of legislation designed to facilitate construction of infrastructure, roading, surveillance stations, and more within 100 miles of any American border without any environmental or other regulatory laws.

For instance, the Border Security for America Act 2017 (H.R. 3548) introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and co-sponsored by 77 Republicans and not one Democrat would waive 36 environmental laws, including the Wilderness Act, the Migratory Bird Act, the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, among others within a 100 mile stretch along all American borders including Alaska, the northern border with Canada as well as the southern border by Mexico.

In other words, it would give Homeland Security and the Customs and Border Protection agencies, almost unlimited ability to vacate and violate with immunity many of our most precious environmental law and our most sacred landscapes including national parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges.

A hundred mile swath of  borderlands takes in such wild places as the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, Wrangell-St Elias National Park, Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, Olympic National Park, Pasayten Wilderness and North Cascades National Park in Washington, Great Bear and the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, Lostwood Wilderness in North Dakota, Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota, Apostle Islands Wilderness in Wisconsin, Isle Royal National Park in Michigan, Breadloaf Wilderness in Vermont, Wild River Wilderness in New Hampshire, and Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine just to name a few of the many areas that could be affected. Along our southern border, are such special places as Cabaza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe National Monument, Saguaro National Park in Arizona, are among the areas that could be impacted by recent legislation.

An analysis by Wilderness Watch found that the legislation if enacted, would potentially impact 73 designated wildernesses totaling 32 million acres along the northern border alone!

A second bill, the “Secure Our Borders and Wilderness Act” (H.R. 3593), from Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), would directly amend and weaken the 1964 Wilderness Act. This bill would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to access structures, installations, and roads; use motor vehicles; use and land aircraft; deploy “temporary” infrastructure, including forward operating bases; and construct and maintain roads, all in designated Wildernesses!

Many see this as an end run around environmental protections across the county by using the fear of illegal immigration as an excuse to waive environmental regulations. The legality of this action is being challenged by a number of environmental groups, however, the problem of border security and its impacts on other American values is still an open question.

Even if Congress fails to pass border wall legislation, Trump is already waiving environmental regulations piecemeal. Just this past January, he waived environmental laws affecting a 20 mile stretch of the border near El Paso, Texas. This is the third time the President has dictated waivers of national laws.

We don’t need to compromise the integrity of our most sacred and wild landscapes to protect the nation. Indeed, the Border Patrol has worked for decades maintaining border security without significantly compromising our premier wildlands and parks. These legislative efforts are simply Trojan Horses designed to undue the Nation’s premier environmental laws using national security as the excuse.

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes