Tucson groups worry wildlife, public lands would be ruined with proposed border wall

Border Wall Wildlife Concerns

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It is a different kind of ‘border crisis.’

“These border walls would cut a scar through the heart of the Sonoran desert," said Laiken Jordahl.

Jordahl is the Borderlands Campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity. The Tucson-based group has filed half a dozen lawsuits against the Trump administration regarding the border wall.

The Supreme Court’s decision last week that cleared the way for the administration to use billions of dollars in Pentagon funds to build sections of a border wall with Mexico didn’t sit well with Jordahl.

“Friday’s ruling was a really big set back, but not all options are off the table yet and we are going to continue to fight," said Jordahl.

The Sky Island Alliance, also based in Tucson, protects and restores the biodiversity and natural heritage of the ecosystem in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and northwestern Mexico.

[ Wildlife of the Borderlands ]

“Yeah, it worries me a lot and it keeps me up a lot," said Louise Misztal, Executive Director for the Sky Island Alliance.

The group has been monitoring seventeen cameras within thirty-five miles from the United States and Mexico border since 2017.

As of last month, there were close to 24,000 photos taken of white-tailed deer. Hundreds of Javelina, mountain lions and black bears were also captured on camera.

“Lots of animals will be cut off from their water sources. They won’t be able to move to find mates or get to food sources their used to finding," said Misztal "They’re talking about long stretches, many dozens of stretches of impermeable wall.”

The wall could impact public land and wildlife refuge, including the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the San Pedro River, the last free-flowing river in the southwest.

“There’s just no way to put a man-made wall across the river and expect that it’s going to stay," said Misztal. “It would be devastating for the river, the hydrology and the animals that use the river."

The Trump Administration has been looking to use more than $2 billion in funding from the Defense Department to replace existing sections of barrier in Arizona, California and New Mexico with more robust fencing.

According to AP, one project replaces 63 miles in Arizona for $646 million.

Jordahl said the possible construction through the desert landscape won’t do a thing for national security.

“At it’s best, it’s speed bump but these walls do cause irreparable harm in the environment," said Jordahl. "They’re a death sentence for wildlife and they stop the flow of water and they really, absolutely are not worth the cost.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies sued the Trump administration in federal court in Washington, D.C., over the emergency declaration in February.

The Center also has sued the Trump administration to challenge border wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley and near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico. The lawsuits challenge the administration’s waiving of dozens of environmental, health and safety laws to speed construction.

The Center’s first border-related lawsuit was filed in 2017 in U.S. District Court in Tucson with Rep. Raul Grijalva. It seeks to require the Trump administration to do a detailed analysis of the environmental impacts of its border enforcement program.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, all of these lawsuits are pending.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.