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Trump’s Planned Permanent Border Wall Threatens Wildlife

WASHINGTON (Jan. 25, 2017) – President Trump signed an executive order today authorizing the extension of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, an artificial barrier that will biologically bisect and isolate Southwestern landscapes, jeopardizing endangered wildlife such as jaguars, Mexican gray wolves and ocelots, among other species. For more on the border wall’s impacts on wildlife and natural resources, please see Defenders of Wildlife’s publication On the Line.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“The border wall and any extension of it undermines decades of binational collaboration and investment in conservation of our shared landscapes. The wall is a disruptive, artificial boundary in the natural world.

“Wildlife must be able to move freely across connected landscapes to survive. A larger, permanent border wall will push vulnerable borderland species like jaguars and Mexican gray wolves to the brink of extinction. 

“Moreover, our federal land management agencies have already been working for years to provide the Department of Homeland Security all necessary access to federal public lands along the Southwestern border. Additional directives that undermine environmental protections on these lands are ill-advised and unnecessary.

“Defenders of Wildlife believes that an impenetrable wall along the Southwestern border will not only devastate wildlife and our invaluable public lands but also numerous borderland communities.”


Wildlife along the Border 

More than 600 miles of border walls and barriers have been constructed in all four southern border states – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. In Texas, these walls and barriers block people and animals from access to the Rio Grande River, an iconic and vital water source for communities and wildlife alike.

In Arizona, the border wall affects three large parcels of protected public lands totaling 3 million acres: Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Barry M. Goldwater Range. Though this ecosystem receives as little as three inches of rain per year, the Sonoran Desert teems with wildlife, including the endangered Sonoran pronghorn, desert bighorn sheep, cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and desert tortoise.

The world-renowned Sky Islands – so named for the “islands” of forested habitat rising out of a “sea” of surrounding desert and grasslands – are the defining geography of Arizona’s eastern borderlands. The Rocky Mountains, Sierra Madre Mountains, Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems all converge at this unique intersection and support concentrations of wildlife, including black bears, spotted owls and deer, and more exotic and rare species like jaguars and thick-billed parrots.

Border Wall Policy

Section 102 of the 2005 REAL ID Act gave the Secretary of Homeland Security unprecedented power to waive any federal, state, or local law to construct roads and barriers along the border.  This waiver has already been invoked five times to exempt the department from more than 35 environmental laws to construct roads and barriers along the southwest border, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Antiquities Act and National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act.

In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture issued a Memorandum of Understanding that set forth goals, principles and guidance on border security implementation, minimizing and preventing significant impact on natural and cultural resources and implementing the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws, regulations and policies.

Proposed Conservation Solutions from Defenders of Wildlife

  • Use vehicle barriers that are permeable to wildlife wherever feasible, especially in areas like national wildlife refuges, where species migration is critical. By contrast, reinforced, double-layer pedestrian fencing is impenetrable for wildlife.
  • Prioritize use of “virtual” high-tech fencing options, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, motion-sensors, laser barriers, and infrared cameras.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.


Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.


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