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Trump’s 2020 Budget Calls for $8.6 Billion to Build Ecologically Devastating Border Wall

President Donald Trump speaks to the press before boarding Marine One at the White House on March 8. MANDEL NGAN / AFP / Getty Images

President Donald Trump's 2020 budget calls for $8.6 billion in funding for his proposed border wall, NPR reported Monday, signaling that Trump is intent on a project that environmental groups say would be devastating to borderland communities and wildlife and that he is willing to keep fighting Congress to get it.


A funding battle with Congress at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 over $5.7 billion for the project led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which caused "irreparable" damage to some of the country's most beloved national parks.

"President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement Sunday. "The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson."

Other potential public health and environmental impacts of Trump's 2020 budget include a 15 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a 31 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The news also comes days after the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife released an interactive story map showing exactly how Trump's wall would impact the nature and communities of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) in Texas. The map acts in lieu of an environmental impact statement, which the Trump administration has refused to conduct, Defenders of Wildlife said in a press release about the map.

"The Lower Rio Grande Valley has become ground zero for the Trump administration in its pursuit of a border wall that will destroy precious landscapes and communities," President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement. "This region is home to some of the most biodiverse habitat in the United States and is crucial to the survival of endangered species like the ocelot."

The LRGV is home to more than 700 species of vertebrate, 300 species of butterfly, more than 300 bird species and at least 18 threatened or endangered species. There are already 115 miles of concrete or steel barrier along the Texas / Mexico border, and Congress has earmarked enough funds in 2018 and 2019 to build 88 more miles of concrete and steel wall in the LRGV. The Trump administration has issued legal waivers for 35 miles of wall and contracts for 14 miles, and the wall construction would seal off parts of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Defenders of Wildlife said.

Sites like the Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, the National Butterfly Center and the La Lomita chapel in Mission, Texas are also threatened by planned construction, but the construction has not been funded yet.

The map also shows how the wall will impact communities, cutting people off from homes, businesses and recreation trails. It includes quotes from stakeholders like property owner Nayda Alvarez:

"I have lived here all my life. This land belonged to my great-grandparents since this area was part of Mexico. Unlike some people [who] say that we might be first generation — no, my parents and great-grandparents have been here forever ... I'm not losing a piece of my land. I'm actually going to lose my house."
A 2017 study from the Center for Biological Diversity found that the border wall could put 93 endangered species at risk.
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"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

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"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

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