After Trump border wall caused ecological damage, settlement is a win for wildlife, Bonta says

Workers in hard hats stand next to heavy equipment.
Construction crews install border wall sections, seen from Tijuana, Mexico, in 2019.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)
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Then-President Trump’s border wall stopped construction before it was finished — but not before damage was inflicted on the local ecology, critics say. Now a legal settlement will be a boon for wildlife at the southern U.S. border.

The settlement, finalized Monday in federal court for the Northern District of California, ended four lawsuits filed against the Trump administration by a coalition of attorneys general from 18 states, including California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta.

The lawsuits alleged that the Trump administration had misappropriated taxpayer money earmarked for other purposes to pay for the construction of the southern border wall.


According to the terms of the settlement, the money will now go to a variety of environmental remediation efforts and a handful of military construction projects.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is considering a move to declare rock collecting a form of mining, and Southern California rockhounds are not happy.

July 16, 2023

For the record:

8:11 p.m. July 18, 2023An earlier version of this story listed several border species as endangered. Of those, only the Sonoran pronghorn and the Mexican gray wolf are currently classified as endangered.

The settlement sets aside $1.1 million for monitoring several species along the U.S.-Mexico border, including the Sonoran pronghorn and Mexican gray wolf, which are both endangered, as well as ocelots, jaguars and peninsular bighorn sheep.

It also sets forth plans for four large wildlife passages and 20 smaller passages to be built along the border barrier system to help protect the species’ ecosystem.

Additionally, it provides $25 million in funding from the Department of Homeland Security for California to purchase a 1,291-acre parcel of land in southwestern San Diego County. The environmentally sensitive property, known as Otay Ranch Village 14, is to be preserved for conservation, according to the agreement.

The National Park Service said the incident was one of the largest illegal killings of its kind in Death Valley.

July 15, 2023

Finally, the settlement reallocates about $427.3 million toward other military construction projects, including a $13-million military flight simulator at Southern California’s Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

“With environmental mitigation projects coming online to protect our sensitive ecosystem along the U.S.-Mexico border and the confirmation of over $427 million in funding restored for military construction projects, today’s settlement ushers in a new beginning,” Bonta said in a statement.