Energy & Environment

Green groups hammer Trump over emergency declaration

Environmental groups are hammering President Trump's plans to use a national emergency declaration to build a wall on the southern border, warning it will have negative effects on the region's ecosystem and wildlife.

"A wall that divides communities, blocks wildlife migration, disrupts water flow and destroys delicate park ecosystems is not the solution to border security and immigration challenges," said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association in a statement.

Trump on Friday said he would declare a national emergency to redirect funds to the construction of a border wall. His decision came after lawmakers agreed on a border security funding package that fell far short of the $5.7 billion Trump had sought. Trump has agreed to sign the deal to avoid a government shutdown but intends to use the national emergency to find potentially $8 billion for a wall.

During the recent 35-day shutdown, national parks across the U.S. experienced maintenance delays, construction stalls and in some cases vandalism. The bill Trump will sign will fund those parks through September.

Green groups are now shifting their worries to what a border wall could mean for the environment, including concerns it could disrupt natural wildlife migration corridors, species habitats, waterways and terrain. And those groups also expressed worries about other elements of the border security deal.

"While we are glad Congress rejected some of Trump's extreme anti-immigrant proposals along with drastic cuts to environmental agencies and new anti-environmental riders in the compromise spending bill, we are troubled both by the increases in immigration enforcement that can rip apart families, as well as funding for border barriers that can harm wildlife," Jennifer Allen Aroz, senior vice president for community and civic engagement at the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement Friday.

"The EPA, the National Park Service, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund have been badly under-resourced for years and deserve the increases-and more-that they receive in this package, but they should not come at the price of hateful and inhumane anti-immigration policy," said added.

More than 40 percent of U.S. territory along the border is owned by the federal government and managed as refuges or national parks by the Interior Department. Those include Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona and Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Conservationists fear a wall could ruin those areas.

"Additional border wall construction would devastate some of our country's most treasured places, such as Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Big Bend National Park by fragmenting sensitive landscapes, walling off wildlife habitats and eroding the region's ecotourism, further hurting local communities that rely on these places for their livelihoods," Pierno said.

The Sierra Club, an environmental group that is a longtime critic of Trump administration policies, called for a legal challenge to the president's decision to use emergency funding to complete the border wall and hinted that such a challenge could come from their group.

"We are repulsed by this unprecedented attack on the borderlands and on our democracy, and we intend to resist it with every tool possible. Meanwhile, Congress and the Courts must be the check on this abuse of executive power," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

"This is one of the lowest lows for the institution of the presidency. The Sierra Club will take swift legal action against Trump's declaration."

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