The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Recently a destruction project began at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to build the border wall. I’m not using the word “construction” because that word typically means to build something of use to people, plants and animals.
This destructive wall will slice through and destroy places that have been internationally recognized and protected to ensure the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of our nation. This can only be called destruction.
Quitobaquito Springs is a desert oasis on the U.S.-Mexico border at Organ Pipe and is designated an UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve and is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
The site contains human cultural artifacts dating back 12,000 years, making it one of the oldest inhabited places in North America. It is exceptionally rich in biodiversity and harbors the only U.S. populations of the Quitobaquito Springs pupfish and Sonoyta mud turtle, both federally listed endangered species. Nearly 300 plant species occur there and it logs the highest bird diversity of any Sonora Desert park.
This 30-foot-tall border wall will be devastating in many ways. Albuquerque-based Southwest Valley Constructors, under a $646 million dollar contract from “reprogrammed” DOD funds and veterans’ retirement accounts, plans to drill wells every 5 miles along a 63-mile stretch in Pima County to mix concrete for the steel bollard wall, drawing down the water table, and possibly drying up these desert springs that have provided life-giving water for thousands of years.
The high-intensity grid power lighting that will accompany the wall will affect birds, bats and insect pollinators, and disrupt their natural movements and life cycles. With the startling loss of pollinators across the globe, this is a reckless action.
This border wall, like those in south Texas, New Mexico and California, will be a killing machine, cutting off wildlife from water and impeding their ability to migrate in search of forage and prey.
The wall will also drive human migrants, fleeing drought, a changing climate, and violence in their countries, further out into the hot deserts to die of thirst and exposure. Is this necessary given the fact that 95% of asylum seekers are turning themselves in at ports of entry?
For this project, the Trump administration waived the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and more than three dozen other laws dating back 1890.
There will be no analysis performed on the environmental impacts before breaking ground, and the many sensitive species, cultural resources and hydrology of the spring could be irreparably destroyed. In August, seven regional experts penned a letter to Congress underscoring the biodiversity and cultural values of this and other “Gems of the Sonoran Desert” and opened up the letter to the public to co-sign and log their opposition.
Quitobaquito is still visited and used by indigenous groups, including the binational Tohono O’odham ceremonial salt pilgrimage. The Trump administration’s decision to waive the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, as well as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act is an insult to indigenous peoples with deep cultural ties to the spring.
Cutting off mule deer, javelina, bighorn sheep, and the Sonoran pronghorn antelope from their food and water sources is tantamount to a crime against nature.
If this wall is built, it will put an end to thousands of years of habitation by plants, animals and people at Quitobaquito Springs and will alter the evolutionary history of this part of the Sonora Desert forever.