Border wall divides views on where it should go next

Both sides think recent earth-moving activity along the border is far from enough but for different reasons
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 7:15 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Neither side is happy on the issue of border wall construction. Those who expect environmental damage to be fixed say it still needs to happen, while others wish the construction never stopped. When construction of the border wall stopped a few years ago, it was just the beginning of a new debate: will there be work to reverse the environmental impact, versus can construction still proceed?

To document the impact of the construction of the border wall, the Center for Biological Diversity shot a video of damaged saguaros and other uprooted vegetation. But fourth-generation border rancher Ted Noon wants the government to finish the job.

“When they first proposed it and I saw what they were going to do I was a little bit negative about it but then I thought about it and what else are you going to do to exclude people but to build a wall?” Noon said.

“You know, ideally these crews would be hard at work actually tearing down the border wall and restoring these lands to the natural splendor, the beauty they’ve always been before,” said Laiken Jordahl, southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Construction stopped, and in the mountains west of Nogales in late October, the Center for Biological Diversity shot a drone video that shows earth-moving activity along the border and sections of the wall. Customs and Border Protection calls it “make safe” work, where it’s filling in low water crossings, adding gravel to prevent washouts, and other work to prevent injury. The work is to basically secure the areas. Jordahl, who shot the video, said the work does not go far enough.

“There’s a ton of remediation that needs to be done. We need to see native plants re-seeded, we need to see the erosion control mitigated and we want to see some of this border wall actually come down where it’s still blocking wildlife migrations,” Jordahl said.

“If I came in and said I think you need to provide access for big cats in this area, I think they could do it. And they have some ideas on how to do that,” Noon said.

But the Center for Biological Diversity said it would fight any effort to continue border wall construction and that the damage has been done with little impact on border protection. Noon said that the wall is only part of the package, along with the road and electronic assets, and it’s a waste of money if left unfinished.

“We need to finish this because it’s a huge investment for the taxpayer. This wall needs to be finished,” Noon said.

“We will be watching this every step of the way,” Jordahl said.

A government report recommended mitigation of the effects of construction and that Customs and Border Protection evaluate lessons learned from the cultural and environmental impacts, which it agreed.

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