The Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires the development of plans to protect listed threatened or endangered species and their habitats.  In fulfilling this mandate, the USFWS has designated millions of acres as “Critical Habitat” for a number of target species.Junior-Jaguar-Belize-Zoo

In my previous post I discussed the recent “USFWS Critical Habitat Designation for Frogs and Toads” which encompasses 3000 sq. miles in California.  Such a designation sets in motion special requirements and/or restrictions on all sorts of traditional “multiple use” activities.   “Mitigation strategies” must be developed and submitted for any activity that might negatively impact the target species.

In the case of the Frog/Toad designation, activities such as livestock grazing, timber management, water storage and diversion, and recreational activities, including fish stocking programs must be evaluated and steps taken to mitigate or REVERSE impacts.  To date, hundreds of lakes and waterways in the Sierra Nevada range have been rendered “fishless” by National Park and CDFW biologists in order to protect frog habitat.  [See my post on “trout eradication” projects here.]

081612jaguarmapIn 2014, the USFWS designated six critical habitat units, as defined under the ESA, for the jaguar (Panthera onca).  The total U.S. land area in the Jaguar Critical Habitat designation encompass approximately 309,263 hectares (764,207 acres) in Pima, Santa Cruz, and Cochise Counties, Arizona, and Hidalgo County, New Mexico (USFWS 2014).

According to the latest USFWS information released during the waning days of the Obama administration, “CONNECTIVITY with MEXICO” is a critical feature of the Jaguar Critical Habitat Designation:

There are seven primary constituent elements of critical habitat that make up the habitat features included in the physical and biological feature that meets the physiological, behavioral, and ecological needs of the species. This physical and biological feature, including these seven elements, is:


2) Contain adequate levels of native prey species, including deer and javelina, as well as medium-sized prey such as coatis, skunks, raccoons, or jackrabbits;

3) Include surface water sources available within 20 km (12.4 mi) of each other;

4) Contain from greater than 1 to 50 percent canopy cover within Madrean evergreen woodland, generally recognized by a mixture of oak (Quercusspp.), juniper (Juniperus spp.), and pine (Pinus spp.) trees, on the landscape, or semidesert grassland vegetation communities, usually characterized by Pleuraphis mutica (tobosagrass) or Bouteloua eriopoda (black grama) along with other grasses;

5) Are characterized by intermediately, moderately, or highly rugged terrain;

6) Are below 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) in elevation; and

7) Are characterized by minimal to no human population density, no major roads, or no stable nighttime lighting over any 1-km2(0.4-mi2) area.

Wolves, grizzly bears, and now Jaguars, are the tip of the REWILDING spear in North America.  Building a “large, physical barrier”, or wall,  on the border with Mexico could be considered a direct violation of the ESA as well as several international treaties because it prevents “connectivity” with jaguar and wolf habitat in Mexico.

The construction of “Trump’s Wall” will not only face a tremendous battle in Congress, but also a landslide of lawsuits filed in FEDERAL court by a coalition of environmental groups that may tie up construction for decades.

The bottom line is this:  If the Trump administration wants to build a “wall” on the border with Mexico, it will FIRST have to take steps to repeal, or rewrite the ESA.  It will also have to get Congress to repeal the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) which allows environmental groups to recoup their legal expenses with taxpayer money.

For further background, click on this link to my 2012 article- REWILDING ARIZONA: 2012 Jaguar Recovery Plan 

Sources for this article include:

Click to access Jaguar_Draft_Recovery_Plan_20_Dec_2016.pdf

Click to access Jaguar_draft_Recovery_Plan_NEWS_RELEASE_12-19-2016_final.pdf


  1. Thanks Ruth,

    The Constitutionality of a “blanket” waiver exempting executive actions based on national security concerns from existing Federal environmental laws will certainly be challenged as far too general and overly broad.

    The State of California as well as every major environmental organization in the U.S. have already begun formulating their legal strategy. On the international side, Mexico has also already approached the U.N. claiming that Trump’s unilateral decision to build a “high, permanent barrier” on the border with Mexico is a violation of international agreements and treaty obligations. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias affirmed Mexico’s position saying that:

    “All countries have interdependence with respect to the environment and biodiversity, so no country can be totally self-sufficient in biodiversity-related issues…”

    The UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which, as you know, the Obama administration signed last September, emphasizes our obligation to work in partnership with other nations to insure species biodiversity, endangered or threatened species protections, and critical habitat “connectivity” across borders. Trump’s wall conflicts with so many agreements and laws, that there are dozens of ways for the opposition to come at this.

    My guess is that Trump will ignore international concerns, but domestic litigation will make it’s way through Federal court, where any decision is sure to be appealed by the losing side. The Supreme Court will likely have to make the final decision. I believe the court will NOT come down on the side of granting such unconditional and unrestrained power to the executive branch, which this “blanket” waiver apparently seems to provide. The Supreme Court is, after all, supposed to provide a check on the other two branches of government.

    It will be interesting to watch if anybody or anything can stop the Trump train. The globalists and REWILDERS are certainly going to try.

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