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Border wall construction could pose serious threat to archeological sites: report

Border wall construction could pose serious threat to archeological sites: report
Photo by Dominique A. Pineiro

The U.S.-Mexico border wall that President Donald Trump has been aggressively pushing for would require construction in four different states: California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The wall not only raises imminent domain concerns, but also, environmental concerns — and according to a new Washington Post report, the construction could also damage or destroy as many as 22 archaeological sites in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.


The Post has obtained a 123-page internal report that the National Park Service completed in July. The Trump Administration, Juliet Eilperin and Nick Miroff note in the Washington Post, has proposed turning a vehicle barrier in Arizona (which is presently five feet high) into a 30-foot-high steel edifice — and according to the National Park Service, doing so could cause irreparable harm to unexcavated remnants of ancient Sonora Desert residents.

Environmental groups have been warning that the construction in that part of Arizona could pose a threat to wildlife. And Eilperin and Miroff report that “some archaeological features along the border already have suffered damage as Border Patrol agents zoom through the desert in pursuit of migrants and smugglers in all-terrain vehicles.”

The Post reporters add, however, that while environmental groups have “fought unsuccessfully to halt construction in the protected areas…. there has been little mention of the potential damage to archaeological sites, where stone tools, ceramic shards and other pre-Colombian artifacts are extremely well-preserved in the arid environment.”

According to Eilperin and Miroff, “Desert-dwelling peoples have populated the area for at least 16,000 years, particularly in the area around the oasis of Quitobaquito Springs in the national monument — one of the few places where the Quitobaquito pupfish and the endangered Sonoyta mud turtle still live in the wild.”

In the Rio Grande Valley area of Southern Texas, imminent domain concerns could slow down border wall construction. But Eilperin and Miroff, in the Post, observe that there are “few private landowners” in the desert area of Arizona where construction is planned — and that makes it “a far easier place to build than along the winding river banks of the Rio Grande.”

Eilperin and Miroff, in their report for the Post, observed that “at least a dozen” Native American tribes “claim a connection to the lands within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument” — and one of those tribes, the Tohono O’odham Nation, has been speaking out against construction in that area.

Ted Norris, Jr., chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, told the Post, “We’ve historically lived in this area from time immemorial. 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. It would have the same effect.”

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