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The Border Wall Now Threatens a National Monument

David Grossman
Photo credit: National Park Service

From Popular Mechanics

  • The Trump Administration's plan to build a border wall could threaten multiple aspects of a National Monument in Arizona, says a report from the National Park Service.
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument could see its archaeological and ecological sites decimated by the construction of a 30-foot steel wall.
  • The Monument also holds personal connections for several Native tribes in the area. A leader of one tribe compares the wall to building "a wall over your parents’ graveyards."

According to a memo from the National Parks Service obtained by the Washington Post , President Trump's plan for a border wall is threatening to destroy or damage 22 archaeological sites within Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

There's already a small, five-foot-tall barrier in the area meant to keep vehicles out. The Trump Administration's plan would forego that barrier for something much larger—30 feet tall and made out of steel. Building a wall as large as the one proposed by the Trump Administration requires its own infrastructure, like roads and security.

"The project entails the wholesale replacement of all existing vehicle barriers and pedestrian fencing along (Organ Pipe's) southern boundary with a new, continuous 9.1 m- (30-foot-) tall, steel bollard fence, undergirded by a 2.44 to 3.04 m- (8 to 10 foot-) deep concrete and steel foundation," reads the report , which the Washington Post received through a Freedom of Information Act request. "Likewise, the project includes the construction, expansion, and/or improvement of existing roads along the U.S. side of the border and the installation of spotlights and surveillance equipment."

The dry and arid desert of Arizona is a natural ally in preserving items of archaeological interest, including stone tools, ceramic shards, and a variety of pre-Columbian artifacts. One location of major concern is known as Quitobaquito Spring, which lies extremely close to the U.S border with Mexico.

Photo credit: National Park Service

"Some of the artifacts found in the area date back approximately 16,000 years, and Quitobaquito has been occupied ever since by many people and cultures, notes the Monument's website . "It is also the home of endangered species and is a place that remains a challenge to manage to preserve and protect the history and habitat that is unique to Quitobaquito." Those animals include an endangered pupfish, known as the Quitobaquito pupfish, and the tiny Sonoyta mud turtle .

Federal plans call for pumping millions of gallons of groundwater out of the region to build the wall's concrete base and water down the dusty roads within the park. Border patrol officials have said that new groundwater wells will not be built within 5 miles of the Spring, but scientists doubt that that's enough distance to keep the site from damage.

Wells within 5 miles would “contribute to an ongoing decline" of the Spring, says Thomas Meixner, a hydrologist at the University of Arizona, speaking to the Arizona Daily Star .

Beyond the archaeological and ecological risks, there are also living cultures that claim a connection to the Quitobaquito Spring. The Post reports "at least a dozen" Native American tribes have a connection to the area, including the Tohono O’odham Nation, who are mentioned on the Monument's website as some of its earliest inhabitants.

“We’ve historically lived in this area from time immemorial,” Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. tells the Post . “We feel very strongly that this particular wall will desecrate this area forever. I would compare it to building a wall over your parents’ graveyards. It would have the same effect.”

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