The section of President Trump's border wall being built through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona's Sonoran Desert has been controversial from the start. The national monument, established in 1937 and named a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1976, is not only a fragile ecological gem but also an area with deep spiritual and cultural importance to several Native American groups and dozens of unexplored ancient archeological sites. Homeland Security Department (DHS) contractors recently started blowing apart a mountain in the national monument to facilitate border wall construction, The Intercept reports.
"The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector," Customs and Border Protection told The Intercept in a statement. The blasting "will continue intermittently for the rest of the month," CBP added, and there will be "an environmental monitor present during these activities as well as on-going clearing activities."
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who visited the area last month, said he has zero faith the government's "environmental monitor will do anything to avoid, mitigate, or even point out some of the sacrilegious things that are occurring and will continue to occur, given the way they're proceeding." Contractors are already draining water from a rare desert spring to mix concrete, and they have sliced up and bulldozed iconic saguaro cacti and inadvertently uncovered possible burial sites, The Intercept reports.
To rush through his border wall, Trump has leaned heavily on a post-9/11 law that gives DHS broad powers to waive all sorts of laws, including the Environmental Protection Act to the Endangered Species Act, The Intercept says. "A historically significant area is going to be changed irreparably," Grijalva lamented. "You're never going to be able to put it back together."