ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Arizona (Border Report) — The saguaro cactus grows in only two places around the world, one of them being in southern Arizona inside the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument along the border with Mexico.
Myles Traphagen, who works for the Wildlands Network, described the park as a landscape that has been completely altered by the 30-foot border wall that went up a couple of years ago.
Traphagen says the border-wall project has been a “devastating blow to all who love the borderlands.”
“These are protected places that Congress set aside some 100 years ago, they are the crown jewels of a lot of our borderlands,” said Traphagen. “We were very pleased when construction stopped, they were blasting away mountain tops in protected areas, national parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas of environmental concern.”
Traphagen worries most of the damage will never be reversed.
“There has not been a concentrated effort to actually restore the damage done by the border wall,” he said. “In some places, it will be impossible to restore it, mountain top removal has taken place, you’re not going to restore those to what they were… in some places we might be able to restore some plants, in time, nature usually wins out.”
Traphagen is also concerned about animals that were used to migrating through the area before the wall was built.
“It’s the jaguar, the American black bear, big horn sheep, the Mexican gray wolf and the list goes on.”
Traphagen called proposed plans to protect some animals “a joke” because 8-by-11-inch openings are supposed to be cut at the base of the border wall to allow animals a way to get across.
“It would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic, these animals are not going to be able to use a passageway that’s smaller than the standard doggie door you would buy at PetSmart,” said Traphagen. “Wildlife movement can’t be done unless portions of the border wall are removed.”
But proponents of the wall say removing sections of the border barrier would be detrimental to border security.
“To realistically patrol this border without a wall, without infrastructure, it’s going to take one agent per linear mile, for every linear mile, you’re going to have one agent,” said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council. “With the wall, we can do it with one agent per seven, it’s not to be the end all, but it’s definitely a piece of the puzzle,”
Last month, President Joe Biden announced he was going to allow more border construction in certain areas, something Traphagen doesn’t want to see happen.
“I believe it’s a broken promise and what’s most disappointing is that President Biden and the Democratic Party, in general, have been sitting on the fence, no pun intended, and they’re allowing a little bit of border wall to be built, they’re working for some gaps to be built,” he said. “In Texas, they are going full speed on border wall construction.”
The Center for Biological Diversity recently filed a lawsuit to try and stop President Biden from restarting border-wall construction.