U.S. will remediate lands damaged by border wall construction

Date:

SUSAN CARPENTER | Contributer

Lands where the border wall was constructed during the Trump Administration will be restored to protect wildlife habitat following a legal settlement between the U.S. government and attorneys general for 18 states.

“The Trump Border Wall is officially a relic of the past, which is where it belongs,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement Monday announcing the deal.

In 2019 and 2020, a California-led coalition of states sued the Trump Administration over its alleged illegal diversion of taxpayer funds to construct a border wall in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow the border wall’s construction to proceed while the lawsuit was adjudicated.

The Ninth Circuit Court has now issued two judgments that found the Trump Administration unlawfully diverted funds to build a wall along the country’s southern border. During Trump’s term, his administration appropriated about $15 billion for the wall’s construction — much of it from the Department of Defense budget.

About 458 miles of the wall were built during Trump’s four years in office, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The wall was primarily made from concrete with steel bollards that measured 18- to 30-feet tall. Almost half of the wall was built in Arizona. Another 100 miles were constructed in New Mexico, 55 miles were built in Texas and 77 miles were completed in California.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that immediately halted construction.

As part of the newly announced legal settlement, the Biden Administration has agreed to end construction of border barriers with the contested taxpayer funds and to remediate lands damaged by the border wall that had been built. The administration will also restore $427 million in funding for military construction projects in many of the states that brought the lawsuits, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The settlement provides $25 million to California to either be used by an environmental nonprofit to purchase 1,200 acres of ecologically sensitive land near the U.S.-Mexico border or to fund environmental mitigation projects in San Diego County.

The Department of Homeland Security will provide $1.1 million to monitor a handful of federally endangered species, including Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, ocelots and jaguars. The Department will also install wildlife passages for endangered species along the existing border barrier but includes provisions for their closure if border security is compromised.

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