In October 2022, a politically-connected private company hired by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey began using stacked shipping containers to build a “border wall” between gaps in the current fence along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona (where the federal government was already working to fill those gaps), including through the Coronado National Forest. Ducey ordered the stunt over the objections of Cocopah Indian Tribe (part of the “wall” is on its reservation) and the federal government, and despite knowing that it violated federal law in multiple ways to do so. As construction on the “wall” began on Coronado National Forest land, Ducey filed this lawsuit to request that the Court declare his actions lawful.
In November 2022, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)–a Tucson-based environmental organization that has been raising alarm over how Ducey’s container “wall” flouted environmental law requirements–was permitted to intervene in the case as a defendant, permitting CBD to argue against Ducey’s actions alongside the federal government defendants.
In mid-December 2022, the federal government sued Ducey (in a separate case) to compel Arizona to remove the containers from federal land and the Cocopah Indian Tribe’s reservation (over which the federal government has an easement). A week later, on December 21, 2022, Ducey agreed to dismantle the “wall” and remove the containers; as of that date, Arizona had already spent at least $82 million on Ducey’s container debacle.
On January 3, 2023, Judge Campbell stayed this case–at the parties’ request–to give Arizona’s newly-elected governor, Katie Hobbs (D), time to decide whether to continue this lawsuit. Thereafter, Arizona agreed to remove all the shipping containers and to also undertake efforts to remediate the environmental damage caused by the containers and their installation. In May 2023, the parties reported that all containers—some of which are now being used by a local nonprofit to provide homes for those in need— had been removed from the property of the U.S. government and that Arizona is still engaging in remediation efforts on some U.S. Forest Service properties.
On September 15, 2023, the parties jointly agreed to dismiss the case.
Ducey’s complaint seeks a declaration that he, as Arizona governor, could ignore the federal regulatory requirements for his installation of the shipping containers. One argument pressed in the Complaint is that President Roosevelt’s 1907 proclamation claiming for the federal government a 60-foot wide strip of land along the border with Mexico (the so-called “Roosevelt Reservation”) is unconstitutional.
Judge Campbell’s November 23, 2022 order granting CBD’s motion to intervene was a minute entry; it stated in relevant part: “Permissive intervention is granted under Rule 24(b). The Court concludes that Intervenor has defenses that share with the main action a common question of law or fact -- whether the federal government may act with respect to the border lands of Arizona, including in the enforcement of federal environmental statutes. The Court will hold Intervenor to its commitment not to unduly complicate this case, delay the proceedings, inject irrelevant issues, or repeat arguments made by the federal defendants. The purpose of granting this intervention is not to convert this case into an environmental enforcement action or launch into broad ranging discovery on environmental issues. The purpose is to enable Intervenor to provide input on the claims and issues raised by Plaintiff.”