Trump’s Border Wall is Triggering Environmental Crisis – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
This story originally appeared on LX.com
In March, Laiken Jordahl visited the Arizona Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for the first time in months. In recent years, Jordahls has devoted himself to documenting the ecological impact of the $ 15 billion border wall between Trump and the United States. The park reopened after the Biden Harris government halted construction. Upon his return, Jordahl was appalled by the stadium-style lighting that he said would disturb the nighttime pollinators. He also found a number of saguaro cacti that had died after being transplanted by customs and border guards.
In Arizona, felling a saguaro cactus is illegal under state law and can result in a grade 4 crime. Hundreds of species depend on them. They are sacred to the Tohono O’odham locals. And some of these cacti are older than the US-Mexico border. But the same rules don’t apply when it comes to the wall, and the saguaro isn’t the only exception.
In 2005, the Bush administration passed law that allowed the Homeland Security Secretary to circumvent any laws that stand in the way of a new border barrier. Since then, 84 laws and regulations have been passed for the construction of boundary walls. These include the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Return Act. Last year, this gave the crews permission to blow up an old burial site and loot the culturally significant Quitobaquito springs.
You have probably heard of the “border crisis” between the US and Mexico related to migrants. You may not have heard of the urgent environmental crisis that activists say was caused by the wall itself. As conservationist Emily Burns puts it, “There’s a misconception that the border is a dusty road that tumbleweeds roll over … and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Burns is the program director at the nonprofit Sky Island Alliance, which has set up 70 cameras along 30 miles of the US-Mexico border to track wildlife migration between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. In just over a year, they have analyzed over 2 million photos and discovered 106 species. She notes that the few people who have seen her are border guards, horsemen and hunters.
She emphasizes that jaguars may be few and far between in the United States at any one time. If separated from the rest by an impassable barrier, they may not be able to sustain a viable population. “We’re really doing this massive evolutionary experiment to find out what happens to animal populations when they’re separated.”
The Sky Island Alliance is part of a coalition of 70 organizations that recently issued a letter calling on the Biden Harris government to terminate and redirect all border wall contracts to remove harmful sections and repair existing damage. The wall, they write, has alarming potential to hinder wildlife migration, genetic exchange, and access to food and water. Dry up water sources; Increase flood risk; and disturbing places of cultural importance to Indians.
Burns explains that a comprehensive environmental review is typically conducted before federal construction projects begin. “Just like we wouldn’t build a two thousand mile highway without seeing where the road would cut.”
In an environmental document about building in Arizona, which Burns and Jordahl are most concerned about, Customs and Border Protection wrote that the agency “has a duty to be a good environmental steward.” In the same paragraph they stated that they were not required by law to do so.
In early April, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said federal agencies were still reviewing wall contracts and would soon present a plan to the president. Burns says it’s too late to undo some of the damage, which motivates them to deal with what isn’t permanent. “What I see as the real crisis at the border is the damage done to the communities by the creation of the wall, and the environmental damage that goes with it.”