SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: September 13, 2019

SNIP: Construction of a 30ft-high section of Donald Trump’s border barrier has begun in the Organ Pipe Cactus national monument in southern Arizona, a federally protected wilderness area and Unesco-recognized international biosphere reserve.

In the face of protests by environmental groups, the wall will traverse the entirety of the southern edge of the monument. It is part of the 175 miles of barrier expansion along the US-Mexico border being funded by the controversial diversion of $3.6bn from military construction projects.

This will include construction in Texas, New Mexico as well as Arizona where, according to a government court filing, some 44 miles of new barrier construction will pass through three federally protected areas. These are the Organ Pipe wilderness, Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge and San Pedro Riparian national conservation area, the location of Arizona’s last free-flowing river.

The Trump administration has deemed the new structures necessary due to a “national emergency” of unauthorized immigration into the US.

What is being proposed is bulldozing one of the most biologically diverse regions of the entire United States,” said Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center. “Walling off these precious places would be a colossal mistake and a national tragedy.”

Organ Pipe, located south-west of Tucson, Arizona, is a 330,000 acre wilderness home to mountain lions, javelinas, the endangered pronghorn and “more bird species than can be listed”, according to the National Park Service website. It is also a deeply significant area for the nearby Tohono O’odham nation which has long opposed Trump’s border wall on their ancestral lands.

“This unneeded, expensive blight will use precious water for its construction, cut off wildlife species from their habitat; and its all-night lights will destroy the clear night skies,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association.

The new construction will replace pedestrian fences and vehicle barriers, which can easily be traversed by animals, with a 30ft tall bollard wall and accompanying infrastructure. There are fears it will impede migration, cut animals off from water supplies and increase flooding.