Sep 17, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Trump border wall threatens archaeological sites in Arizona

This image shows a tall cactus standing to the right of a sign that reads "Travel caution: Smuggling and illegal immigration may be encountered in this area"

A sign warns against smuggling in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument near Lukeville, Arizona. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Unrecorded archaeological sites within Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument could be destroyed by President Trump's border wall construction, according to a newly public National Park Service report obtained by the Washington Post.

The big picture: Customs and Border Patrol plans to finish construction through the Arizona International Biosphere Reserve by January, according to the report. Construction began on Aug. 29. The Trump administration told Axios in August it expects to build 450 miles of wall by the end of 2020 — but was unable to say when it would add its 1st mile of new wall to a border area without pre-existing barriers.

Details: The Trump administration aims to replace all existing vehicle barriers and pedestrian fencing along the monument's southern boundary with a 30 foot tall steel bollard fence, undergirded by an 8–10 foot concrete and steel foundation, according to the report, conducted in June and obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request from the Washington Post.

What they're saying: According to the report, archaeologists with NPS' Intermountain Region Archaeology Program and Southern Arizona Support Office say they "must assume" that all buried and unrecorded archaeological deposits within the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument "will be destroyed over the course of ensuing border wall construction."

  • “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," Tohono O’odham Nation chairman Ned Norris Jr. told the Post.
  • The Nation is one of at least a dozen Native American tribes that describe cultural and historical connections to the lands within the Arizona monument.

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