Bor­der wall to go up in na­tional mon­u­ment, wildlife refuge

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY ASTRID GALVAN AND NOMAAN MER­CHANT

— The U.S. gov­ern­ment plans on re­plac­ing bar­ri­ers through 100 miles (161 kilo­me­ters) of the south­ern bor­der in Cal­i­for­nia and Ari­zona, in­clud­ing through a na­tional mon­u­ment and a wildlife refuge, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments and en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity on Tues­day once again waived en­vi­ron­men­tal and dozens of other laws to build more bar­ri­ers along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

Fund­ing will come from the De­fense Depart­ment fol­low­ing the emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed this year af­ter Congress re­fused to ap­prove the amount of bor­der wall fund­ing that he wanted.

Bar­ri­ers will go up at Or­gan Pipe Cactus Na­tional Mon­u­ment, a vast park named af­ter the unique cactus breed that dec­o­rates it, and Cabeza Pri­eta Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, which is largely a de­signed wilder­ness home to 275 wildlife species. The gov­ern­ment will also build new roads and light­ing in those ar­eas.

En­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates who have sued to stop the con­struc­tion of the wall say this lat­est plan will be detri­men­tal to the wildlife and habi­tat in those ar­eas.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion just ig­nored bedrock en­vi­ron­men­tal and pub­lic health laws to plow a dis­as­trous bor­der wall through pro­tected, spec­tac­u­lar wild­lands,” said Laiken Jor­dahl, who works on bor­der is­sues at the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment but has typ­i­cally not said much about con­struc­tion plans.

At Or­gan Pipe Cactus Na­tional Mon­u­ment, row af­ter row of cac­tuses dec­o­rate 513 square miles (1,328-square kilo­me­ters) of land that once saw so much drug smug­gling that half the park was closed to the pub­lic. But il­le­gal cross­ings in that area dropped off sig­nif­i­cantly in the past sev­eral years, and the gov­ern­ment in 2015 re­opened the en­tire mon­u­ment for the first time in 12 years.

While Ari­zona has seen an in­crease in bor­der crossers over the last year, most are fam­i­lies who turn them­selves in to Bor­der Pa­trol agents. The num­ber of drugs that agents seize in the state has also dropped sig­nif­i­cantly.

But the gov­ern­ment is mov­ing for­ward with more bor­der in­fra­struc­ture.

The waivers the depart­ment is­sued Tues­day are vague in their de­scrip­tion of where and how many miles of fenc­ing will be in­stalled. The Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity says the plans to­tal about 100 miles of south­ern bor­der in both Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia, near Calex­ico and Te­cate.

PHOTO/MATT YORK AP

This Feb. 17, 2006, file photo,shows the in­ter­na­tional bor­der line made up of bol­lards: ir­reg­u­lar, con­crete-filled steel poles, seper­at­ing Mex­ico, left from the United States, in the Or­gan Pipe Na­tional Mon­u­ment near Lukeville, Ariz.

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