'This is just pure political grandstanding,' said an advocate from one environmental group.
Arizona's Republican attorney general is suing the Biden administration for halting border wall construction, claiming that it would harm the environment. But environmental advocates say it does just the opposite.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 20 ending border wall construction and redirecting funds for it elsewhere. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit in federal court on April 12, arguing that stopping wall construction violates the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 because large "gaps" left from incomplete portions of the wall would result in significant environmental impacts.
"Defendants [Biden administration officials] have embarked on multiple environmentally disruptive policies without performing even cursory environmental analysis," the lawsuit states.
Brnovich further told a local Phoenix affiliate, "It's not just about the six to eight pounds of trash per person crossing the border that we're talking about. We're also talking about the population increases generally and what impact is that having on our overall environment."
But environmental advocates question Brnovich's lawsuit and assertions.
"This is just pure political grandstanding. This lawsuit doesn’t even pass the laugh test," the environmental nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity's Laiken Jordahl told the affiliate.
He added, "They've used thousands of pounds of dynamite to blow up mountains, to bulldoze indigenous sacred sites, to plow through wildlife refuges."
The Trump administration, in its quest to construct the border wall, ignored over 40 environmental laws that protected air, water, endangered wildlife, and public lands, Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the environmental center, separately told the Arizona Republic in an email.
"If Arizona's attorney general truly cared about the environment he would’ve sued the Trump administration for ignoring environmental laws and tried to stop these destructive walls from being built," Segee said. "Instead, he watched as dozens of bedrock laws protecting our air, water, and public lands were waived and some of Arizona’s most spectacular, sacred, protected places were decimated."
The center reinforced just how crucial the borderlands surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border are, saying, "This border region is host to a diverse array of threatened, endangered and rare species — including Sonoran pronghorns, lesser long-nosed bats, Quino checkerspot butterflies, cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, and larger predators like jaguars, Mexican gray wolves and ocelots — and it contains millions of acres of public lands."
Meanwhile, a coalition of around 70 environmental and civil rights organizations alongside tribal entities have called for a section of the border wall in Arizona to be removed. The groups sent the Biden administration a report in late February detailing how the barrier is blocking 10 key Arizona wildlife corridors.
Myles Traphagen, the Wildlands Network's borderlands program coordinator, told the Arizona Daily that the border wall sections disrupt and impact critical wetlands and wildlife migration.
"With the monsoon season only four or five months away, swift action is needed to stabilize these sites in order to prevent catastrophic flood damage when strong summer storms arrive," Traphagen added.
"Are people still cutting holes in the wall? Are there still issues? Yes, but the point is, when you have no wall and then you create incentives for people to come over, you are going to see more of that," Brnovich said in an interview on Fox News Radio.
He continued, "when you have that many people trying to cross the border, come over the border at one time, it creates anarchy, it creates chaos.”
In the waning days of the Trump administration, Arizona signed an agreement on Jan. 8 with the Department of Homeland Security that granted the state a consultation period of 180 days before any Biden administration policy could take effect.
Brnovich referred to the agreement in a letter to Biden's acting Department of Homeland Security secretary in late January, writing, "As the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for the State of Arizona, one of my duties is to ensure the protection of our State’s residents."
In early February, the Biden administration ended that agreement.
This article was updated to correct the spelling of Laiken Jordahl's name.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.