IIn the 1980s, When Kevin Dahl first started to visit the Organ Pipe Cactus national monument in southern Arizona, the border was not marked, reserved for a simple fence used to prevent cattle from a farm in America that crosses Mexico. On those days, park rangers would order their lunch at a restaurant just across the border.
Since then, a 30ft long steel bollard wall has replaced the old barbed wire fence at Organ Pipe. The towering steel fence cuts through the sanctuary of Unesco like a rust-colored sewing thread.
Kevin Dahl, a senior program manager at the National Park Conservation Association, said: “It̵7;s this incredible scar that depicts the wall through a pristine road of the Sonoran Desert, making dwarf the giant cacti named this desert. “What was once a connected landscape is now a dissection.”
That dissection is now a reality on much of the US border. It is a landscape increasingly clearly defined by the associated walls, roads, fences and border infrastructure that are separating strictly protected habitats, offending literary sites. spiritualization and threatens many endangered species in some of the most biodiversity and unique places in North America.
“The border building has had a huge impact on some of the most remote and biodiversity landscapes on the continent,” said Dan Millis, an activist at the Sierra Club. “The Trump administration is going even further.”
Four days before the US election, this is how the new border wall affected four distinct wildlife zones.
‘An environmental and human disaster’
Donald Trump entered the Oval Office on a campaign promise to build 450 miles of a new “border wall system” – a combination of infrastructure including mooring fences, roads , lighting perimeter, camera execution and other technology – even in the midst of a pandemic, have been continuously at an increasing rate. According to Customs and Border Protection, 400 miles of the border wall system has been completed so far, with physical barriers ranging from 18-30ft high. If he wins, he may well aspire to cross the border altogether.
Construction mainly takes place on public lands, often protected, because the Department of Homeland Security has extensive authority to waive environmental protection laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, otherwise it will prohibit construction.
Protected lands “belong to the government because they are unique and fragile. Due to the same fact, they are being demolished, ”said Laiken Jordahl, frontier campaigner for the Center for Biodiversity, noting that building border walls on public land is relatively easy. compared with long process of appropriation of private property.
The east terminal is Lower Rio Grande Valley wild animals hideout in southeastern Texas – 100,000 acres of lush protected land that US Fish and Wildlife has spent four decades restoring. 135 separate regions of the land, described as a “string of pearls” connecting different habitats, stretched along 275 miles of the Rio Grande River before entering the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the most biodiversity places in the country, supporting 700 species of terrestrial animals such as leopards, wild cats, as well as countless species of flora and vibrant ecotourism.
The landscape is currently divided by a 15ft concrete facility surrounded by 18ft steel panels.
“It will be much more difficult to preserve very little of what is left of the ecosystem,” said Norma Herrera of the Rio Grande Equal Voice Network.
“This is one of the best birds in the world,” said Elise Wort, a tourist who traveled from her home in California to see some of the more than 500 species of birds that reside in the valley. “The border is an environmental and human disaster.”
Much of the construction in the southwestern border states took place in remote, mountainous terrain. Critics argue that the construction of physical fences in these areas makes no sense as most of them are light trade corridors for illegal migration and they are also important habitats of the cave. object. Ninety-three endangered and threatened animal species are found in border areas.
One such area is The Madrean Sky IslandsThe rugged, linked mountain ranges of New Mexico and Arizona boast the highest biodiversity in interior North America.
Emily Burns, program director of the Sky Island Alliance, said: “It’s like going from the climate of the Mexican border to Canada,” said Emily Burns, program director of the Sky Island Alliance, with ecosystems. ranging from subtropical lowlands and deserts to temperate mountain peaks.
The 30ft steel wall and stadium lighting are adversely affecting the ocelot, javelina, the Mexican gray wolf and the North American jaguar, which has made a surprising return in the US since being hunted to extinction. at the end of the 1980s, according to Burns organization.
“We do not expect any hope for the recovery of the jaguar if [the border is] done, ”said Burns, because it would separate the main Jaguar population in Mexico from the US herd.
Farther east in Arizona, new sections of the bollard steel wall are being built in the largest area of the Sonoran landscape being protected. In San Bernardino nation wild animals hideout, pumping groundwater to mix concrete for the wall is depleting an important wetland and leaving four threatened or endangered species that San Bernardino was created to protect. Government documents obtained by environmental groups show that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly warned the Department of Homeland Security about an imminent threat to these species. Their warnings were not heard.
Myles Trapenhagan, Borderlands program coordinator for the Wildlands Network, an environmental group, said: “I started my career as a biologist at Refuge, and 20 years later, I arrived full to witness its destruction.
‘Our tribal sovereignty is not maintained’
Construction under the Trump administration severely affected tribal lands along the border, leading to a growing movement of protests against insulting sacred sites and prohibiting access to the land. of ancestors.
“Our tribal sovereignty is not maintained,” said Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan, a doctoral candidate for Indian studies at the University of Arizona and a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Border cultural and religious events between O’odham members in Mexico and the US. “I don’t think it’s ever when it comes to border walls or borders in general.”
In Organ Pipe Cactus nation monument in Arizona, part of the ancestral land of the Tohono O’odham nation, a particular highlight is the impact of the border wall on the sacred Quitobaquito springs. A recent analysis by data scientists at investigative journalism website Bellingcat found that the water level at Quitobaquito Stream was decreasing at an unprecedented rate, at which border wall construction could be the culprit because The teams exploited the aquifer below to get water for concrete.
‘This wall does nothing more than divide our community’
On October 12 – Indigenous Day – O’odham members and their allies blocked the highway passing through Organ Pipe. Border guards responded with force, including tear gas, arresting eight people in the process.
Earlier this year, construction teams used explosives to blow up the Monument hill at Organ Pipe to make room for the wall, disturbed the O’odham burial site and uprooted many scattered Organ Pipe and Saguaro Cactus trees. rubbish along service roads, creating crushed green monoliths.
A recent decision by a federal court of appeals has provided at least one victory for border wall critics, and a blow to Trump’s ambitions to complete 450 miles of the wall by the end this year.
The 9th round court of appeal ruled that it was illegal for the president to use his emergency powers to allocate military funds for the construction of the border wall. Construction will continue, though, for projects where pre-military is not being used – including the four described here.
Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, whose area includes Organ Pipe, said: “This wall does nothing more than divide our community, disrespect our values and cause harm. great environment. “It is time for the wall building to end once and for all.”