Land Commissioner Garcia Richard Responds To Proposed Customs And Border Protection Wall

SANTA FE Wednesday, Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard submitted a five page letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) regarding the proposed first phase of the federal border wall.
The CPB requested comments regarding the proposed project on 31 miles of federal land in Luna County and 15 miles of federal land in Doña Ana County. The Commissioner’s letter (attached and available here) outlines detailed concerns about the project.
The proposed land for “El Paso Project 1” does not include any state trust land, but construction of the bollard wall, including staging areas, construction vehicles, and personnel, are likely to need access to the immediately adjacent state trust land. To date, the State Land Office has not received any inquiries from the U.S. government regarding rights of way permits or land easements that are required for lawful access and entry to these state trust lands.
“Because of the Trump administration’s obsession with a border wall, I imagine CBP’s request for public input is symbolic in nature only. But I hope the Trump administration will take our concerns seriously,” Commissioner Garcia Richard said. “So little information has been released about their plans, and the fact the administration has decided to ignore all environmental laws in constructing the wall, we cannot know the exact impact that this proposal would have on state trust land. This border project does not come close to meeting even the lowest bar for sustainable land management.”
Commissioner Garcia Richard’s letter outlines the following State Land Office concerns:
  • Encroachment on state trust lands during construction – because CBP has not released any information regarding staging locations or how construction crews will access the proposed border land, we cannot know how state trust land will be impacted. The Land Office requires and easement or right of way permit for anyone to lawfully access state trust land.
  • Long-term impacts to state trust land – the intended wall project will have lasting and negative implications for state trust lands that are as close as sixty feet to the construction site. The new wall will require the removal of current sections of fencing and the installation of new materials, leading to excessive digging, excavating, trenching and the destruction of forage and eroding of soils. Heavy vehicle traffic and earth moving equipment for extended periods of time will have a negative impact on air quality as well as surface resources. Pile driving, welding, and cutting will create metal shavings and other waste that may contaminate soil and water. Any required road construction will likely result in additional surface disturbance and the generation of pollutants. CPB has not disclosed its plans for power lines or other infrastructure that may create additional surface disturbance, air pollution, and habitat disruption. The Land Office is unable to determine the potential impact or severity of trespass in regard to the unspecified lighting “detection technology” to be installed on the wall.
  • Lasting damage to habitat and threatened species – though CBP has agreed to be responsible for environmental planning around this project, there is no public available evidence that they have engaged in any environmental planning. Several studies show that physical barriers are detrimental and dangerous to wildlife and their access to food, water, mates, and other critical resources. The information shared by CBP indicates that the agency will flood the border wall with high-intensity lighting.