Highway robbery federal style …how US Fish & Wildlife gets funds to study bats because US Customs and Border Protection built a fence on the border

There was an article about how US Customs and Border Protection agreed to give $50 million to US Fish and Wildlife (an agency within the US Department of Interior), for studies about wildlife on the border. 

An initial $6.8 million was agreed to be given by CPB to Fish & Wildlife for studies of things like bat conservation. The funding settles a dispute Fish & Wildlife had with CPB over construction of the fence on the US-Mexico border.

First, one has to ask the question…how does constructing a border fence impact bats? One assumes bats could fly over the border fence.

Here is where the initial $6.8 million is being allocated for…

The First Mitigation Projects:

Sasabe Biological Opinion Arizona $2,119,000

Organ Pipe Cactus NM Biological Opinion Arizona $980,000

San Bernardino Valley Mitigation Arizona $657,480

Rio Yaqui Fish Studies Arizona $441,250

Peninsular Bighorn Sheep Study California $230,000

Coronado NM Agave Restoration Arizona $274,873

Northern Aplomado Falcon Reintroduction and Habitat Restoration New Mexico $499,700

Border-wide Bat Conservation Arizona $925,000

What folks need to understand is the interaction within the federal government between various agencies.

US Customs and Border Protection is part of the Department of Homeland Security. CPB was under a Congressional mandate to build the border fence. Congress wisely exempted Homeland Security from having to do a lot of environmental impact studies before the fence was constructed, because EIS work can take years to complete.

The US Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service is part of a different Cabinet level arm of the federal government, and opposed the border fence because of alleged impacts on wildlife. Among the Fish & Wildlife arguments was that the fence would impede the jaguar from coming from Mexico to the US.  [Note…this is the same jaguar whose listing as an endangered species was based on bogus claims there were lots of jaguars living in Arizona.]

In order to get the Fish and Wildlife folks off their backs, CPB ended up paying what amounts to extortion to Fish and Wildlife so Fish and Wildlife employees can run around studying bats. Money from the CPB budget is now being transferred to Fish and Wildlife.

Whether Congress would have appropriated money to Fish and Wildlife to study bats is doubtful, especially in this tight economy.

But Fish and Wildlife doesn’t need to go to Congress. What they do is throw up all sorts of objections to other federal projects in the name of protecting endangered species or whatever, block those projects, and then raid other agencies’ budgets to keep their projects going.

US Fish and Wildlife held up the Central Arizona Project for over $100 million to fund, among other things, poisoning bullfrogs in stock ponds in southern Arizona as part of efforts to save the Chirichahua Leopard Frog.

Protecting the environment has turned into a racket, with one federal agency holding other federal agencies hostage so the  money apporopriated by Congress for stuff like building a border fence ends up being diverted into studying bats.

Congress needs to reign in US Fish and Wildlife.

Here is the press release issued by Interior and Homeland Security. Note that a very positive spin is being placed on the deal. Sort of like smiling after one is raped and saying “thank you”.

Projects to Benefit Environment on the Southwest Border


The First Mitigation Projects:
a. Sasabe Biological Opinion Arizona $2,119,000
b. Organ Pipe Cactus NM Biological Opinion Arizona $980,000
c. San Bernardino Valley Mitigation Arizona $657,480
d. Rio Yaqui Fish Studies Arizona $441,250
e. Peninsular Bighorn Sheep Study California $230,000
f. Coronado NM Agave Restoration Arizona $274,873
g. Northern Aplomado Falcon Reintroduction and Habitat Restoration New Mexico $499,700
h. Border-wide Bat Conservation Arizona $925,000



Contact: CBP Public Affairs (202)344-1780  

DOI Public Affairs (202) 208-6476

Washington, DC– The U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have completed the first InterAgency Agreement under the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement to fund environmental mitigation projects that will benefit several species of fish and wildlife affected by border security projects in the Southwest. Signed September 28, the agreement will fund $6.8 million in projects and represents the first of a series of efforts designed to mitigate impacts from the construction of fencing and other security measures along the U.S. Border with Mexico.

“CBP is committed to protecting our country’s natural resources and wildlife while performing our security mission,” said CBP Deputy Commissioner, David Aguilar. “CBP is responsible for sound environmental stewardship and energy conservation as an integral part of their mission activities.”

“The projects we are announcing today are, in effect, part of a down payment on mitigating the impact on wildlife and its habitat from the on-going effort to secure our southern border,” Assistant Secretary Rhea Suh said. “In the future, we will continue to work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to fund new projects that ensure threatened and endangered species and other wildlife along the border are conserved and the fragile ecosystems they depend upon are protected.”

The initial mitigation projects include funding to restore habitat for lesser long-nosed bats in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona; re-establish the Aplomado falcon in New Mexico; install a fish barrier at San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona to preclude competition with invasive species; study movement of bighorn sheep in California; survey and monitor jaguars and their habitat in Arizona.

Customs and Border Protection is funding these projects under a 2009 Memorandum of Agreement between CBP and the Department of the Interior for mitigation of unavoidable impacts to natural and cultural resources due to construction of border security infrastructure. Under this agreement, CBP will fund DOI up to $50 million over the next few years for mitigation needs.  

Over the past three years, CBP has constructed about 670 miles of fence along the southwest border as an integral part of the nation’s strategy to improve border security. CBP has committed to responsible environmental stewardship throughout the life-cycle of the tactical infrastructure, from construction through operations and maintenance.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of U.S. borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the United States while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.



About Hugh Holub

Attorney and writer.
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