Thursday, May 29, 2008

Texas Groups Sue to Force the Department of Homeland Security to Obey Our Nation's Laws

The Frontera Audubon Society, the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, and the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge are suing Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff for waiving 36 federal laws in order to build walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. They are joined in this effort by a diverse group of plaintiffs along the Texas-Mexico border: El Paso County, the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, the Hudspeth County Conservation and Reclamation District No. 1, the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo of the Tigua Nation, and Brownsville’s Galeria 409. The Texas organizations are challenging the constitutionality of section 102 of the Real ID Act, which gives Secretary Chertoff the power to waive any and all federal, state and local laws in order to facilitate construction of the border wall. The suit claims that by placing the authority to unilaterally suspend all laws in the hands of a single Administration appointee, the Real ID Act violates the Constitution’s separation of powers. As organizations dedicated to the preservation of South Texas’ remaining wildlife habitat, these groups assert that if environmental laws are waived, years of effort to protect species and restore critical habitat will be lost.

In April DHS Secretary Chertoff announced that he was using his waiver power to ignore 36 federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, in order to speed up construction of over 300 miles of border wall. The only reason for Secretary Chertoff to waive these laws is that he knows that the border wall will violate them.

The fate of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge system is of particular concern. Consisting of individual tracts of native habitat linked by the Rio Grande, it creates a wildlife corridor, providing endangered species such as the ocelot and jaguarundi sufficient territory to find food, water, and mates. Migratory birds also rely on it to rest and refuel on their annual journeys, as well as for nesting. Maps released by DHS show the border wall slicing through many refuge tracts, and cutting off others from the river. The wall will fragment habitat, block migratory pathways, deny animals access to fresh water, and isolate breeding populations of endangered ocelot and jagurandi.

"It's taken 30 years, $80 million, and back-breaking effort to create an 80,000 acre wildlife corridor along the last 250 miles of the Rio Grande. To put a fence or wall through that is insanity," said Keith Hackland, President of the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor.

“Currently, there are only 80 to 100 wild ocelots remaining in the continental U.S., and they cannot hope to survive without the wildlife corridor and the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” said Shane Wilson, President of the Friends of Laguna Atascosa. “The border wall, as proposed, will ensure that future generations will never witness the spectacular beauty of seeing an ocelot in the wild.”

“Further habitat losses in the Valley, which serves as a vital stop over and feeding grounds for hundreds of species of migrating coastal shorebirds, inland waterfowl, and passerines, and nesting habitat for approximately 150 more species, will be catastrophic,” said Wayne Bartholomew, Executive Director of Frontera Audubon.

In their suit, the organizations ask the court to declare section 102 of the Real ID Act unconstitutional and to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from building walls, roads, or other infrastructure on the border that do not fully comply with all of our nation’s environmental laws.

"To instantly dissolve 96 years of environmental laws and protection with a mere wave of the hand is nothing short of monstrous,” said Jim Chapman, Board President of the Frontera Audubon Society. “If laws can be so easily swept aside on the border, the same precedent could be applied anywhere, from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Yellowstone National Park. If our nation’s laws are optional, they aren’t really laws.”

In the April waiver the Department of Homeland Security suspended the following federal laws along the United States' southern border:

The National Environmental Policy Act
The Endangered Species Act
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act)
The National Historic Preservation Act
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act
The Clean Air Act
The Archeological Resources Protection Act
The Safe Drinking Water Act
The Noise Control Act
The Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
The Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
The Antiquities Act
The Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
The Farmland Protection Policy Act
The Coastal Zone Management Act
The Wilderness Act
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act
The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
The Administrative Procedure Act
The Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999
Sections 102(29) and 103 of Title I of the California Desert Protection Act
The National Park Service Organic Act
The National Park Service General Authorities Act
Sections 401(7), 403, and 404 of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978
Sections 301(a)-(f) of the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act
The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
The Eagle Protection Act
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
The National Forest Management Act of 1976
The Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Presidio does the right thing in joining the Texas Border Coalition border wall lawsuit

by Adrienne Evans

On Tuesday, May 20, after input from citizens and discussion among the mayor and council, the Presidio City Council voted to join the Texas Border Coalition (TBC), a coalition of Texas border cities, counties, chambers of commerce, and economic development corporations, representing over two million border residents from El Paso to Brownsville. Presidio is scheduled by DHS for levee-wall construction this year, along with Cameron and Hidalgo Counties.

On February 19, the Presidio City Council passed a resolution that stated that they opposed “the building of a wall along the Texas/Mexico border that extends over 135 miles of border,” as well as “a wall specifically in the Big Bend Area of Texas,” in that “the building of the border wall will impact our region, through trade, tourism, and unfriendly relations within border alliances”. The Presidio County Commissioners, the City of Marfa, the City of Alpine, and the City of El Paso passed similar resolutions.

At the Border Wall Conference in Alpine on May 17, U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Carry Huffman stated in reference to a border wall in Presidio, “As I mentioned earlier, Presidio is not a place that is out of control. Apprehensions in Presidio are relatively low.” After delineating examples of the existing problems in the Marfa Sector, Huffman said, “We anticipate that traffic will be moving through the Ojinaga area,” as the rationale for the border wall.

During a presentation at the Tuesday City Council meeting, Redford resident and border activist April Cotte stated, “I have spoken with five landowners who are very against this, whose land will be affected.”

Mayor Lorenzo Hernandez said, “The thing that really bothers me is those big, old lines that we have to wait in [at the port of entry]. Two Sundays ago, people were complaining about waiting three hours to pass. So if this coalition could help us out that and help the businesses in Presidio, I don’t see why we shouldn’t join. … About the relationship between Presidio and Ojinaga … how is [the border wall] going to affect the relationship with those people? And they know they need Presidio just as much as we need them. And I don’t think this wall is going to help that relationship.”

Before the council voted to join the TBC, there was a discussion about alternatives to the border wall, such as restoring the Rio Grande to its historical levels. The vote was unanimous.
During the city council meeting, Presidio City Attorney Steve Spurgin indicated that he would be in contact with the attorneys involved regarding legal action.

The TBC has recently filed a class action lawsuit against the government asserting, among other issues, that there was a lack of consultation with property owners and border communities about the construction of a border wall. The lawsuit is being brought pro bono by a team that includes lead attorney Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Los Angeles.

In the legal complaint filed on May 16, 2008, it states that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has "failed to comply with the consultation requirement of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 … which requires consultation with private property owners and cities and other stake-holders to minimize the impact on the environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life for the communities and residents located near the sites at which activities relating to border fencing may occur.”

The chair of the TBC is Chad Foster, the mayor of Eagle Pass. In the complaint filed last week, which names as the plaintiff, TBC, and as defendants, Secretary Chertoff as well as Robert F. Janson of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Mayor Foster is quoted about never receiving “any logical answers from defendants as to why certain areas in his city have been targeted for fencing over other areas: ‘I puzzled a while over why the fence would bypass the industrial park and go through the city park.’”

After the Presidio city council's vote, lifelong Redford resident Enrique Madrid, who attended the meeting with his wife Ruby, said, “Today, May 20, is the eleventh anniversary of the killing of Esequiel Hernandez Jr. Instead of a human form of militarization like the Marines killing Esequiel, this border wall is an engineering form of militarization, which is just as inhumane and brutal as deploying the Marines on U.S. soil in Redford was, eleven years ago."

On May 20, 1997, Esequiel Hernandez, Jr., an 18-year-old high school student, was killed by U.S. Marines near his home in Redford, Texas, which is 12 miles from Presidio. He was the first U.S. citizen to be killed by members of the U.S. Armed Forces since an incident where student demonstrators were massacred at Kent State University by members of the Ohio National Guard in 1970. The documentary, The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez, will air on PBS on July 8. It is narrated by Tommy Lee Jones and directed by Kieran Fitzgerald.

Mr. Madrid went on to say that “it was appropriate that the City of Presidio, in its own way, commemorated the death of Esequiel Hernandez by rejecting this new manifestation of militarization on this day. It’s like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that there is hope, that justice will be permitted, finally. Justice is a natural right that should be freely flowing, and the City of Presidio is supporting that.”


Adrienne Evans is a mother, health practitioner and community volunteer who lives in Terlingua, Texas. She is the co-founder of No Wall – Big Bend coalition. For more info, visit
This op-ed first appeared in the Big Bend Sentinel, the Presidio International, and the Rio Grande Guardian.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Senator Cornyn's Lack of Integrity Brings Texans the Border Wall

Despite the fact that he voted for both the Secure Fence Act and the Real ID Act, in October Texas Senator John Cornyn told the Border Trade Alliance, “I have long said that I do not support a fence, or as some said, a wall, between the United States and Mexico. That’s irrational and just doesn’t make sense, because we know that people can come over fences or walls; they can go under them; they can go through them, given sufficient opportunity.”

Just a few weeks later Senator Cornyn authored S. 2348, the “Emergency Border Security Funding Act of 2007”, showing once again that he values the worst politics ahead of the best interests of south Texas and our nation. It called for 700 linear miles of border wall and 300 miles of vehicle barriers along the US – Mexico border, and provided $3 billion dollars to get construction started. This despite his earlier statement and the fact that the walls built so far have had no impact on the number of people coming across our southern border.

Once again, Senator Cornyn was talking out of both sides of his mouth. When he visited the border, where people know that a wall will do tremendous damage without bringing any benefit, he said that he does not support a border wall. When he went back to Washington he pandered to far-right xenophobes and sponsored legislation providing $3 billion to build the border walls in Texas that he admits will not work, that he knows border residents do not want, and that he claims not to support.

Cornyn also said, "I assure you there will be local consultation. There will not be ... unilateral actions on the part of the Department of Homeland Security without local input." But of course that promise has proved to be false as well. The Department of Homeland Security has not listened to any local input, and has instead relied upon condemnation proceedings to take private and municipal property against the owners’ will. Homes and businesses will be bulldozed, farms and ranches will be cut off from the Rio Grande, parks and wildlife refuges will be destroyed. This destruction was not agreed upon by its victims.

When DHS Secretary Chertoff used the authority granted him by the Real ID Act to waive 36 federal laws to build the border wall, one of those laws was the National Environmental Policy Act. It requires that a project’s impacts on both the human and natural environment be thoroughly examined, and that public input be solicited and addressed. Two days after handing down the waiver Chertoff told the Texas Border Coalition that the Final Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements that had been close to completion would not be released to the public. Thousands of public comments that had been received will never be addressed. Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes said, “it is clear that DHS is not communicating with the border communities that would be most adversely affected by this project."

If Cornyn and other Senators from southern border states were to stand up for their constituents and denounce the border wall on the floor of Congress, it would have an impact on Senators from northern states. Other Senators assume that, representing a state that borders Mexico, Texas Senator Cornyn has some insight into border issues. If he were to show them that the border wall will only slow down, not stop, undocumented crossers, they might listen. If he were to present evidence that the wall will do tremendous environmental damage and destroy the Rio Grande Valley’s $125 million ecotourism industry, they might pay attention. If he were to stand up for property owners in El Paso, Presidio, Roma, Brownsville, and other Texas communities in the face of DHS attempts to trample their legal rights and seize their property, other Senators might support him.

Unfortunately, Senator Cornyn has done none of these things. Instead he has worked to make the border wall a reality, and his support for the wall gives political cover to members of Congress who might otherwise be persuaded to oppose it. So long as he refuses to take a leadership role in stopping the border wall, it is going to be extremely difficult to convince Congress to revisit it. Hopefully Senator Cornyn’s lack of leadership and integrity will catch up with him this November.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Judge JD Salinas Buys into the Border Wall

By Scott Nicol

On February 8 Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff held a press conference at the Border Patrol station in Hidalgo County, Texas, to announce that a deal had been struck with Hidalgo County Judge JD Salinas to build the border wall. Rather than the 22 miles of “pedestrian fence” that DHS had planned to build along side the flood control levees in the county, which would destroy homes, bisect farms, and ruin wildlife refuges, the wall would be inserted into the levees. The existing levees that parallel the Rio Grande would have their sides torn off and replaced with 18-foot tall slabs of concrete. This was a configuration that had been rejected without study in the Draft Environmental Impact Study for the Rio Grande Valley, but suddenly it was rebranded as the perfect solution for both stopping the flow of immigrants into the United States and holding back floodwaters in a hurricane zone. Judge Salinas and Secretary Chertoff both characterized the border wall/levee combo as a “win-win.”

This week Hidalgo County Judge JD Salinas told residents of Hidalgo County that we will be paying $48 million to stuff the border wall into our flood control levees. Since brokering the deal for the border wall/levee combo, Judge Salinas has claimed that the border wall is not a wall at all, and that rather than destroying homes, farms, and wildlife refuges it will be a boon to our economy. When Secretary Chertoff announced that he would waive federal laws meant to protect Hidalgo County residents and our environment, Judge Salinas issued a press release stating that, “As it relates to Hidalgo County, the DHS waiver is responsive to the needs of our diverse border community.” Rather than fight for the rights of his constituents, Judge Salinas is paving the way for the border wall.

Salinas has repeatedly claimed that the county will be reimbursed. Relying on Senator Cornyn’s promise of federal funds, he says that the border wall/levee combo will actually bring money into the county rather than draining our funds. However, in order to secure these funds, Senator Cornyn must get a law passed, and his bill repaying Hidalgo County’s contribution to the border wall has no cosponsors and may not go forward. Hidalgo County will then be left with the bill for a wall that the overwhelming majority of its residents do not want.

Salinas claims that the new design is not really a border wall, it is a levee, but for the Department of Homeland Security this is not about flood control. If it were, Chertoff could not issue a waiver. The waiver authority contained in section 102 of the Real ID Act only applies to border wall construction. No wall = no waiver.
In response to criticism of his applause for Chertoff’s waiver, Salinas issued a statement saying,
"I agree with you that environmental laws are enacted to protect the environment for humans and that persons are guaranteed by the Constitution equal protection under the law. However, South Texas is hardly as equally protected as the rest of our country and the rest of the border. We live in a unique geographic setting — a flat Delta area prone to intense tropical weather."

We were equally protected by the law before Secretary Chertoff issued the waiver. Now we are not. Laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act, which continue to be in effect for the rest of the nation, no longer ensure that the water that we drink is safe or clean. The Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act no longer protect the ocelots and migratory birds that attract $125 million worth of ecotourism to the area. The suspension of our legal protections has nothing to do with “a unique geographic setting.” The fact that we live in a flood prone area does not mean that we should live without protective laws; instead, it makes those laws even more important.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans it was not because there were too many pesky laws. New Orleans drowned because the federal government shirked its duty to maintain the levees. The federal government has also been negligent regarding south Texas’ levees. Now Secretary Chertoff, who oversaw the disaster there, is going to implement a rushed insertion of border walls into our already weak levees. The waiver was issued to speed this up. Now the Final Environmental Impact Statement will not be released, and DHS does not have to carry out the engineering studies and hydrological modeling that would assure us that the wall is structurally sound. They will just build it and hope for the best.

In Arizona border walls constructed just last summer are already leaning over. With construction rushed to meet an artificial deadline, there is no reason to think that similar problems will not plague Hidalgo County. But here the stakes are higher, as the new border wall is also supposed to protect us from floods. The laws that Chertoff waived, and whose suspension Salinas has publicly supported, were there for a reason.

The fact that Judge Salinas is working so hard to sell not only the wall but the waiver, ignoring the threat to the safety of Hidalgo County residents and the suspension of our Constitutional right to equal protection under the law, is extremely disturbing. Judge Salinas has gone from opponent of the border wall to border wall booster, and his words will help Chertoff to build it.

The 2007 Omnibus Spending Bill says that to get border wall funds Secretary Chertoff must go before the Appropriations Committees and prove that he has worked with local stakeholders. Texas Border Coalition President Chad Foster has repeatedly said that Chertoff’s claims of meaningful consultation are false. Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada and numerous other border leaders have said the same. But when Secretary Chertoff goes before those committees he will ignore his critics and instead trot out Judge Salinas. He can say, “Judge Salinas thinks the wall is ‘a win-win’; Judge Salinas says, ‘the DHS waiver is responsive to the needs of our diverse border community.’” Salinas’ statements will help Secretary Chertoff get the funds that he needs to build the border wall.

Maybe Hidalgo County will be reimbursed for the $48 million, or maybe we will be forced to pay for a wall that we do not want, that will in no way protect us, and that may actually increase the liklihood of a levee breach. One thing is certain; Judge JD Salinas has become Chertoff’s best ally when it comes to building the border wall.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

DHS Violates the Law in Condemning Private Property for the Border Wall

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has been providing legal advice and representation to private property owners threatened by the border wall who could not otherwise afford a lawyer. The Department of Homeland Security has been trying to browbeat landowners into signing over access to their lands. Even in cases in which a farm or ranch will be sliced in half, and a lack of access to the Rio Grande for irrigation will make farming more expensive or completely untenable, DHS has only offered to pay for the slice of property that the wall sits on. Property owners whose land is entirely behind the wall will receive no compensation, even though the liklihood that anyone will want to buy their property in the future is next to nothing. TRLA has done commendable work on behalf of border residents, and the No Border Wall Coalition commends their efforts.

TRLA released the following press release regarding their efforts to defend private property owners on May 8, 2008:

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – Today the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered that oral arguments on a series of border wall lawsuits will begin the week of July 7.

The issue to be addressed by the Court is whether the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated federal law by condemning land for the border wall before negotiating a price for the property. Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the largest provider of legal aid in Texas, the landowners are arguing that the government is not following the legal steps required in the condemnation process.

Landowners in the cases on appeal claim that, because the Government failed to offer any money, it cannot sue them for land access. DHS is arguing that it did not offer the landowners any money because it “deemed $0.00 to be a reasonable price” and the courts do not have the power to question the government’s determination of the price’s reasonability.

“If the government’s condemnation power is really that broad, then nobody has the power to make them comply with their own laws,” said TRLA attorney Jerome Wesevich, “The government asserts absolute power in this case and that power can’t be questioned by anyone.”

Landowners involved in the litigation include Baldomero and Hilaria Muñiz of Los Ebanos, Texas. The elderly couple worked as migrant farmworkers and used their earnings to build a house on the border. They raised their five children in the house and now tend goats on their small piece of land to survive. In June 2007 DHS approached Mr. Muñiz and told him that he had to give the Department access to his property or be sued by the federal government.

“This land is their livelihood,” added Wesevich. “Saying that it isn’t worth a penny is insulting.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit case number is 08-40372.


Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.

Contact: Jerome Wesevich, Attorney

Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The border wall will drive jaguars to extinction in the United States

The Center for Biological Diversity is bringing suit to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan for jaguars in southern Arizona. Listed under the Endangered Species Act, the jaguar is one of the first species that will be driven to extinction by the border wall. If the walls that are on the books for 2008 are built, the Sonoran pronghorn, cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, ocelot, jaguarundi, and a number of other species will follow the jauar into oblivion. While the border-wide waiver of laws that DHS Secretary Chertoff issued on April 1 exempts the activities of the Department of Homeland Security from 36 federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is still required to obey the law and develop recovery plans for critically endnagered species. The No Border Wall Coalition applauds the Center for Biological Diversity's efforts to compel the federal government to uphold federal environmental laws.

For Immediate Release, April 30, 2008

Silver City, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to compel development of a recovery plan and critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. The suit challenges a “finding,” signed by Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall, that a recovery plan would not promote the conservation of the jaguar.

The finding was signed January 7, 2008, four months after the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a biological opinion that served as a green light — by stating that there would be no jeopardy to the survival of the jaguar — for construction of a border wall that is now rising along the Arizona border with Sonora, Mexico in regions where jaguars roam.

Construction of the wall will end the ongoing jaguar recolonization of former habitats in the United States. Four male jaguars, identifiable by the individual pattern of their rosettes, have been photographed in the United States since 1996, including one photographed repeatedly in southern Arizona over the past 12 years. Other unconfirmed jaguars have also been reported.

Fish and Wildlife’s finding, which was not subject to public review, relies on regulatory loopholes allowing the Service to forgo development of recovery plans in extraordinary circumstances, such as when “the species’ historic and current ranges occur entirely under the jurisdiction of other countries.” However, both the jaguar’s historic U.S. range from California through the Carolinas and its current U.S. range in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico disqualify it from this exemption.

“The American jaguar has been exterminated from all but a tiny sliver of its vast historic range in the United States,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “A recovery plan is a science-based document that would help the jaguar reclaim and eventually be secure in more of its native ecosystems.”

Robinson added: “We will not let the Bush administration, now walling off the border, doom the jaguar to extinction in its northern range.”

The finding directly contradicts the assessments of independent biologists that a science-based recovery plan is imperative for the jaguar. In September 2006, Dr. Brian Miller and Dr. Howard Quigley, both members of the interagency Jaguar Conservation Team’s Scientific Advisory Group, wrote the Fish and Wildlife Service to request appointment of a jaguar recovery team. The primary role of a recovery team is to craft a recovery plan.

Dr. Miller has studied wild jaguars in Jalisco, Mexico. Today Dr. Miller stated: “A recovery team and the recovery plan its members produce would reduce conflict because it would force people to consider evidence for an issue rather than rely on political beliefs. Science-based planning puts biological sideboards within which people can negotiate and solve problems.”

In June 2007, over 500 members of the American Society of Mammalogists met in Albuquerque and unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan for the jaguar. The resolution concluded that “habitats for the jaguar in the United States, including Arizona and New Mexico, are vital to the long-term resilience and survival of the species, especially in response to ongoing climate change.”

In its finding, the Fish and Wildlife Service states that “the existing voluntary approach” of the Jaguar Conservation Team suffices instead of a recovery plan. In 1997 the team pledged to “coordinate protection of jaguar habitat,” but it has not done so, not even taking a stand against the ongoing construction of the border wall.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has developed international recovery plans for the Mexican gray wolf (1982) and the whooping crane (2007), among others, indicating the practicality of working across borders to recover endangered wildlife.

The Endangered Species Act is intended to recover species and conserve their ecosystems. The presence of jaguars in the Southwest contributed to the evolution of alertness in deer and the tendency of the pig-like javelina to travel in herds for protection. Because jaguars roam widely, protection for their habitat can also protect the habitats for many other species – an example of the link between conservation of species and their habitats that is contemplated in the Act.

The jaguar was listed as an endangered species south of the border in 1972 but was not afforded protection in the United States until July 1997, which only occurred as a result of a previous Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service.


The jaguar is the largest New World cat. It historically occurred from the southern United States through Mexico and Central America to South America. In the United States it once roamed the southern states from Monterey Bay, California through the Appalachian Mountains. It was exterminated by the same federal predator extermination program that wiped out wolves in the western United States, along with persecution by the livestock industry and habitat loss.

The last female jaguar confirmed in the United States was shot by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predator control agent in the Apache National Forest (where Mexican gray wolves have since been reintroduced) in 1963.

When the jaguar was listed as an endangered species throughout its range in 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was then required to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for it.