Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said border security is as much an environmental issue as it is a matter of national security in a Memorial Day interview with Breitbart News.
“It’s a national security issue, a national defense issue, it’s a humanitarian crisis, and oh, by the way, it’s an environmental crisis,” Zinke said.
After personally inspecting the border, Zinke was “surprised” by the amount of environmental damage from “uncontrolled crossings.”
President Donald Trump announced a surge in border enforcement personnel April 3. He pledged to send thousands of National Guardsmen to the southern border to assist Border Patrol agents in clamping down on illegal immigration from Mexico. (RELATED: Trump Wants To Send 2,000-4,000 National Guardsmen To The Border)
While cutting down on illegal immigration, the added border security will prevent further damage to environmentally sensitive areas in the U.S. that border Mexico. A 2011 Department of the Interior (DOI) study found illegal immigration has led to “significant impacts” to the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge (CPNWR) in Arizona. (RELATED: Trump’s Wall Would Protect Hundreds Of Miles Of Critical Habitat And Environmentalists Want To Stop It)
Officials found 8,000 miles of track crisscrossing the refuge. The CPNWR borders Mexico for less than 60 miles.
“Impacts to endangered species, plant and animal communities, and cultural resources are more significant than just the mere presence of tire tracks within wilderness,” the report stated. “Past research of vehicle use in off-road areas have demonstrated significant impacts to soils, plants, and wildlife.”
“I am absolutely in support of a wall,” Zinke told Breitbart. “A wall alone won’t do it, I think you need a wall, you need technology, you need people.”
Environmentalists are suing the Department of Homeland Security for suspending environmental regulations in order to construct a border wall.
A border wall would cut through sensitive habitats and inhibit the movement of vulnerable species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
“Trump’s border wall will be a deathblow to already endangered animals on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border,” a May 2017 CBD report on the border wall states. “A wall will block movement of many wildlife species, precluding genetic exchange, population rescue and movement of species in response to climate change.”
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