Border wall to go up in national monument, wildlife refuge
— 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.
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.