McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Several environmental groups have reached an agreement in a lawsuit against several federal government agencies that now have pledged not to use military funds to continue construction of the border wall.
The 2019 lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Legal Defense Fund, to stop border wall construction using Department of Defense funds.
Under the agreement, reached last week, DOD and the Department of Homeland Security officials promise to stop any construction of the border barrier on the Southwest border using military funds from Fiscal Years 2015 to 2019.
This does not apply to any border barrier construction currently being paid for with other funds, such as in South Texas.
The agreement also provides for remediation and mitigation efforts in the future to help restore the borderlands from the environmental effects caused of border wall construction. But that is “subject to the availability of funding,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
It also stipulates that the federal government will conduct a study to evaluate the full environmental impact that construction had on wildlife habitats.
Construction of the border wall was a hallmark of Donald Trump’s presidency, and environmental groups say they want all evidence of it removed from the landscape.
“This agreement halts one of the Trump administration’s most destructive and enduring follies. The wall is responsible for blocking critical cross-border wildlife corridors and impeding recovery efforts for endangered species like the Mexican gray wolf and jaguar. Defenders will continue to fight for the protection of the rule of law against reckless decisions that put our communities and wildlife at risk,” Defenders of Wildlife’s Vice President of Conservation Law for Mike Senatore said in a statement.
A Mexican gray wolf, nicknamed “Mr. Goodbar,” famously walked 23 miles in four days in November 2021 to try to get around the border wall in New Mexico. In January he was found shot in the leg and helped by U.S. Fish & Wildlife authorities.
“While no military funds should’ve been wasted on Trump’s destructive wall, this agreement at least puts a stop to it,” said Brian Segee, a lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The wall and its infrastructure, including lights and roads, have carved a monstrous scar across one of the most biodiverse regions on the continent. Now federal agencies will have to take stock of the damage and begin the important work of trying to heal this environmental and humanitarian disaster.”
“The previous administration’s disregard for wildlife in critical protected refuges, forests and conservation areas to illegally construct a wall along the border could lead to devastating long-term impacts that will require study and monitoring for years to come,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “While the government’s national emergency powers should have never been used for this purpose, we hope this step helps prevent further damage to these communities and ensure such actions don’t occur again in the future.”
The February 2019 lawsuit alleged Trump overstepped his executive authority to appropriate billions of dollars to construct border walls along the southern border and that he illegally invoked the National Emergencies Act, reallocating military funding in a nonemergency situation to fund a policy goal.
In April 2021, shortly after President Joe Biden took office, he rescinded all border wall contracts paid for with military funds.