Arizona Dynamite explosions are shaking this isolated corner of southeastern Arizona, forever changing the landscape by flattening mountains to raise more sections of the Mexican border wall before Donald Trump leaves the presidency.
Every explosion in the Guadalupe Canyon creates a cloud of dust as workers clear the ground to erect 30-foot steel columns near the New Mexico border. Heavy machines drive up rocky slopes on dirt roads and dig holes for pillars on state land.
Trump has accelerated wall construction over the past year, particularly at wildlife sanctuaries and on government-run Indian territories in Arizona and New Mexico, avoiding legal battles with landowners. The works have damaged the environment, prevented the free movement of animals, and changed unique mountain and desert landscapes. Environmentalists say the damage could be irreversible. The government, for its part, claims to take care of national security, and uses that argument to set aside environmental protection laws in an effort to deliver on one of the key promises Trump made during the campaign that pushed him to. brought it House. White
Activists hope President-elect Joe Biden will suspend these works, although that can be difficult and expensive, and the columns can still be installed.
The worst damage occurred along the Arizona-Mexico border, where ancient saguaro cacti were knocked down in the western desert and ponds of endangered fish were returned to the eastern canyons. The most recent works closed access to the last great unspoiled river in the southwest, making it more difficult for desert tortoises, some ocelots and the world’s smallest owls to cross that border.
“Beautiful landscapes on both sides of the border are being transformed into industrial wastelandsSaid Randy Serraglio of the Tucson Center for Biological Diversity.
At the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, near the Guadalupe Canyon, biologist Myles Traphagen said that the movement of animals (including lions and lynxes) captured by the cameras installed in the area has increased by 90% in the last three years. decreased. months.
“This wall is the greatest obstacle to wildlife movement ever seen in this part of the world,” said Traphagen of the non-profit Wildlands Network. “It changes the evolutionary history of North America.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created the nearly 10-square-kilometer (4-square-mile) shelter in 1982 to protect endangered native fish and water. There are also numbers of hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and bats.
Since companies hired by Customs and Border Protection began construction of the new section of the wall in October, environmentalists estimate that millions of gallons of water have been used to mix cement and spray dirt roads.
Solar energy pumps water into a pond under old poplars. Frogs croaking and Yaqui guatopotes meander through a reservoir of water once fed by natural artesian springs that received water from an aquifer.
A 5-kilometer (3-mile) barrier blocked an animal migration corridor between Mexico’s Sierra Madre and the Rocky Mountains, threatening species such as the chiricahua leopard frog and the blue-gray poultry falcon.
The Trump administration says it has completed 692 kilometers (430 miles) of walls and will have completed another 33 kilometers (20 miles) by the end of the year.
Those close to Biden say he intends to keep his promise to “not build another meter.” But it’s not clear how it will stop the works or if it will get them half-finished, given the cost of breaking the signed contracts and the inconvenience it would cause to those who think the wall is vital to border security.
“A wall will do little to prevent criminals and (drug) cartels from crossing the border,” said Biden’s team. The president-elect has said he will focus on “smart measures, such as improving the infrastructure to detect illegal crossings at our ports of arrival, which will make the country safer”.
The environmentalists hope to find an ally in Alejandro Mayorkas, who has been appointed by Biden as head of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees customs and border protection.
Until the works are suspended, “there will be a mile of devastated land on the border every day,” Serraglio said.
Environmental attorney Dinah Bear said the Biden government could suspend the contracts. Although the contracts are not public, the compensation he would have to pay to the companies would be much lower than what would have to be invested to complete and maintain the works, which are funded by resources from the military appropriate under the protection of a decree declaring Trump a national emergency.
Bear, who sat on the White House Council for Environmental Quality under both the Republican and Democratic governments, says Congress should allocate money to repair the damage caused by the walls.