Interior transfers parts of public lands to Army for border wall construction

Interior transfers parts of public lands to Army for border wall construction

The Interior Department approved a transfer of 560 acres of public land to the U.S. Army to build about 70 miles of border wall, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced Wednesday. 

The approved land, which spans parts of New Mexico, California and Arizona, will not interfere with any national parks or segments of Native American land, according to the department’s announcement. 

“I’ve personally visited the sites that we are transferring to the Army, and there is no question that we have a crisis at our southern border,” Bernhardt said in a department announcement. “Absent this action, national security and natural resource values will be lost. The impacts of this crisis are vast and must be aggressively addressed with extraordinary measures.”

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The order temporarily transfers the land to the Army for a three-year period for border security purposes. 

The transferred land includes portions of Luna and Hidalgo Counties in New Mexico, San Diego County, California and Yuma County, Arizona. 

The Interior Department said the transfer of land will also prevent “environmental issues caused by unlawful border crossings,” including land degradation, destruction of trails and unlawful fires.  

The Army submitted its request for the transfer after Trump’s unprecedented move declaring a national emergency at the border in February, after Congress did not approve his request for he billions of dollars to create a border wall. 

The Defense Department announced earlier this month it will defer $3.6 billion to fund 11 barrier projects along the southern border.

Building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has been a cornerstone of Trump’s presidency and was a promise he made during his 2016 campaign, when he repeatedly claimed that Mexico would pay for the project.