PICTURED: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona.
ARIZONA, February 6th, 2020. President Donald Trump’s border infrastructure project is cutting right through federally-protected land in Arizona. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is also a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve and contains land considered sacred to the Tohono O’odham Nation.
So far the Department of Homeland Security have ensured concerned lawmakers at the state and federal level that environmental monitors are present to ensure the sanctity of the ecosystem which the DHS and U.S. Customs and Borders Protection are effectively bulldozing.
The only mention of these activities anywhere on the Department of Interior, or National Parks Service websites are in the form of road closure warnings on the Organ Pipe Cactus news section.
In a remarkable piece, Ryan Devereaux writing for The Intercept, details how the land in which this border infrastructure construction is taking place on is wrapped up in some of the strictest public land laws on the books. As well as being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and National Monument, the land is under stewardship of both the National Parks Service as well as the Tohono O’odham Nation who maintain legal ownership of it and whose ancestors have been laid to rest there for hundreds of years.
Raul M Grijalva (D – AZ) Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, penned a letter to the DHS expressing his gravest concerns for the disregarding of consultation with the Tohono O’odham Nation, as would be necessary pursuant to Executive Order 13175 – Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Indian Governments.
Under the totalitarian-style wording of the Real ID Act of 2005 the secretary of the DHS, a federal department created only 4 years prior, has the authority to waive all legal requirements when constructing border walls or roads. This evidently includes tribal consultation and public land protection laws.
Grijalva goes on to include details of how the construction plans are currently and have the potential to damage or disrupt “irreplaceable resources in the area,” including groundwater aquifers, which Grijalva understands the DHS is drilling into for the purposes of mixing concrete, and the Quitobaquito Springs, a vital fresh water source for the tribal nation and region.
Speaking with Devereaux, Grijalva explains he has zero faith that the DHS’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”.
A section of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument called Monument Hill is reportedly being subject to demolition by explosives. The hill is too large and steep to allow for the wall to be easily built, so according to Laiken Jordahl, a former National Parks Service employee in communication with Devereaux, trucks with yellow explosive HAZMAT labels have been stopping at a gas station outside the monument.
“They’ve completely decimated Monument Hill,” Jordahl told The Intercept.
“The Department of Homeland security is exploding a mountain on O’odham land and UNESCO biosphere reserve to build Trump’s wall. Draining precious groundwater, bulldozing ancient saguaros and plowing over burial grounds isn’t enough,” he wrote. “Now they’re literally dynamiting a mountain in protected wilderness lands”.
More than any other bureau in the Department of the Interior, it is the job and purpose of the National Parks Service to preserve the land with which it is granted stewardship of it its entirety, “for our children, and our children’s children, forever,” as Theodore Roosevelt said. This is because the relatively small amount of public land they are charged with protecting includes the most sacred, beautiful, historically significant, and biologically unique of all the ground and places in the Union.
World at Large is waiting for comment from the National Parks Service as to whether they were aware of or acquiesced to this usurpation of their duty and authority along with the exploitation of our National Monument.