The usually liberal federal appeals court in California sides with President Trump on Monday, ruling that the government has wide latitude to waive environmental laws to build a segment of the border wall in order to put on a speed construction of some border construction projects in southern California. According to NPR, the court let stand a Department of Homeland Security decision to bypass environmental regulations — including the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act — to quickly construct barriers and roads near the U.S.-Mexico border.
- The court’s opinion stated that “[b]ecause the projects are statutorily authorized and DHS has waived the environmental laws California and the environmental groups seek to enforce, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to DHS.”
- The Justice Department claimed that the ruling was “a victory for the Trump administration, for the rule of law, and above all, for our border security.”
- The Center for Biological Diversity found in a 2017 study that more than 90 endangered or threatened species would be threatened by proposed wall construction along the 2,000-mile border.
- The lawsuit challenged only the construction of 37 prototypes of the planned border wall in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego County, as well as a replacement for existing border infrastructure along a 15-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico boundary south of San Diego.
Environmental groups expressed disappointment about the California decision but vowed to fight the wall in Texas, where construction of a 5.5 mile section of the wall is imminent at the National Butterfly Center—the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the U.S. The wall will cut off 70% of the 100-acre sanctuary from the rest of it.
Why This Matters: We are facing a massive extinction crisis and constructing more of this wall is an unnecessary risk on endangered species, such as many types of butterflies. That is why environmental groups and the owners of the butterfly sanctuary filed a request to stop construction in Texas while the litigation goes forward. Whatever happened to the conservatives’ fight for property rights? Apparently, those don’t matter when the “property” is a butterfly sanctuary as opposed to a ranch or private forest land. The government’s law enforcement agencies have been driving heavy machinery through the butterfly center’s property without permission or notice, and plan to “take” the land needed for the wall by eminent domain. To be fair, the Administration plans to “take” private property like ranches as well to build their wall. Even property rights are “endangered” by the wall.