Feds relocate native plants at Organ Pipe for border wall

Organ Pipe conservation efforts

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - While the border wall construction is underway, so are conservation efforts.

Customs and Border Protection, National Park Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are making sure protected vegetation are moved from the area before construction crews come through.

“We want these cacti to stay in their native environment, their native soil. That’s why, like the one you saw today, we only had to move it about 25 feet,” said Border Patrol Agent Joe Curran.

Nearly 100 cacti have be relocated so far and at least another 70 have been identified in the area as salvageable. The extra activity around the monument has more eyes out on the border.

“It’s a minor concern, but anytime you’re up against the border there is going to be a concern,” Curran said.

However, not everyone is happy with the moving effort. Some activists are worried about the treatment of the plants. It’s not uncommon to see some uprooted cacti in a broken heap. Some plants don’t pass the test.

A certified arborist looks at each cactus and determines which are able to make the move to a different spot. The ones that are able to withstand the move are uprooted and replanted facing the same direction as its original spot.

The cacti might be moved and the incoming 30-foot wall will change the landscape, but Curran said the monument will maintain the beauty he’s witnessed over the last eight years on the job.

“You can’t beat some of these views," Curran said. "I mean people come here from all over the globe just to see these organ pipe cactus because they’re so rare and this is their native environment. You can’t find them anywhere else really.”

The Center for Biological Diversity shared video of a bulldozer over cactus prior to Friday. A spokesman for the group, Laiken Jordahl, shared the following statement:

“People are rightfully outraged that Trump’s border wall is inflicting terrible damage on our beloved Sonoran Desert. No amount of PR can change the fact that Arizona’s most iconic symbols are being bulldozed. Even if some of these spectacular cactuses survive relocation, that pales in comparison to the lasting devastation this wall will inflict for generations to come.”

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