Border Wall Said to Threaten 22 Archaeological Sites in Arizona

September 20, 2019 by Border Wall Said to Threaten 22 Archaeological Sites in Arizona September 20, 2019by Alexa Diaz
Organ Pipe Cactus spread for miles inside Organ Pipe National Monument off the Ajo Mountain Drive, near Ajo, Arizona October 22, 2016. Organ Pipe National Monument is in the heart of the Sonoran Desert and is bordered by Mexico, where US Customs and Border Protection officers routinely patrol the roads and fences looking for smugglers and illegal immigration. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON — The construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border could damage — or even destroy — up to 22 archaeological sites at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, according to a report from the National Park Service that was obtained by the Washington Post.

The 123-page internal report dated July 2019 summarized the findings from a survey of 11.3 miles of land along the border in southwestern Arizona that experts said is home to an “abundance of natural and cultural resources unique to the Sonoran Desert.” The report said previous research from the agency recorded 17 archaeological sites that “likely will be wholly or partially destroyed by forthcoming border fence construction.” A more recent survey in June identified five more sites that would be affected.

The border wall construction on the land overseen by the National Park Service, as described in the report, would replace existing barriers with taller steel fences that are anchored by deep concrete and steel foundations. It would also create new roads and improve existing ones along the U.S. side of the border, and include installation of surveillance equipment. That construction, archaeologists warn in the report, means on-site “cultural and natural resources are imperiled.”

The Washington Post reported that the Department of Homeland Security has relied on a 2005 law to waive federal requirements — including the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Endangered Species Act — that could have slowed and even stopped the barrier’s construction on the lands in Arizona.

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is named for the long, thin cacti that dot the desert landscape. It is designated as an international biosphere reserve, meaning it serves as an example of an intact Sonoran Desert ecosystem that scientists can reference to determine the impact of humans in the area. The history of humans in the region traces back at least 10,500 years, the agency reports. The report said previous surveys of the land did not test for potentially buried archaeological deposits at sites such as habitation areas, rock shelters, camp sites and trails.

“It is probable that significant, presently unrecorded surface-level and buried archaeological deposits persist … and we must assume that all such unrecorded deposits will be destroyed over the course of ensuing border wall construction,” the report said, citing that artifacts discovered at the sites have ties to ancient nomadic peoples and Native American groups, among others.

The Post reports that at least a dozen Native American groups have ties to the lands within the monument. This includes the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose reservation borders the park’s boundaries.

“We’ve historically lived in this area from time immemorial,” Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. told the Post. “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.”

The report ultimately recommends that the five newly discovered archaeological sites be protected by a National Register of Historic Places designation and that all unsurveyed areas of the national monument’s southern boundary be reviewed “as soon as is possible, in light of impending border fence construction along the park’s entire 30-mile southern boundary, entailing ground disturbance across the whole, 60-foot wide Roosevelt Reservation.”

The construction of a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border has been one of Trump’s signature promises, and one that he has aggressively pursued. When Trump was on the campaign trail, he vowed to erect a southern border wall to block people from illegally crossing into the U.S. But the wall project has seen little headway, largely because of the fight between the White House and lawmakers over funding the project.

Senate Democrats recently announced they will force a vote in Congress in an attempt to reverse Trump’s national emergency declaration that authorized the use of money from other parts of the federal budget for the construction of a border wall.

Trump has continued to push for the border wall’s construction as he campaigns for reelection in 2020. This urgency includes reportedly going as far as telling officials that he would pardon them if they’re convicted of breaking any laws in the rush to complete several hundred miles of the barrier ahead of the election.

———

©2019 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In The News

Trump Floats Mulvaney Replacements Including Mnuchin and Conway White House
Trump Floats Mulvaney Replacements Including Mnuchin and Conway

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has for weeks been privately testing the idea of replacing his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who’s swiftly fallen out of favor with some of the president’s allies after high-profile stumbles handling the House impeachment inquiry. About a month ago, Trump said... Read More

Feds Fault University, Florida Agency and Contractors for Deadly Bridge Collapse State News
Feds Fault University, Florida Agency and Contractors for Deadly Bridge Collapse

WASHINGTON — During a hearing Tuesday on last year’s deadly collapse of the Florida International University pedestrian footbridge, the National Transportation Safety Board heard evidence from its staff engineers and investigators showing that the bridge’s “catastrophic failure” stemmed from a flawed design with “significant errors.” In... Read More

Embattled Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Won’t Seek Re-Election State News
Embattled Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Won’t Seek Re-Election

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said Tuesday that he will not seek re-election. His decision to not seek another term comes after a secret recording, released by conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, captured Bonnen offering media credentials in exchange for Sullivan targeting “moderate”... Read More

Russia-Linked Group Likely Used Iranian Hacking Tools, NSA Says Cybersecurity
Russia-Linked Group Likely Used Iranian Hacking Tools, NSA Says

WASHINGTON — A Russia-linked group is believed to have utilized Iranian tools to conduct cyber attacks against dozens of countries, in an apparent effort to mask their identities, according to joint advisories by the U.S. and the U.K. The group, known as Turla, used tools from... Read More

Immediate Backlash Hits Trump After He Calls Impeachment Probe a ‘Lynching’ Impeachment
Immediate Backlash Hits Trump After He Calls Impeachment Probe a ‘Lynching’

WASHINGTON — Conjuring memories of violent racially motivated murders and drawing an immediate bipartisan backlash, President Donald Trump on Tuesday described House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as a “lynching.” Trump made the statement in a morning tweet that began with a warning that “if a Democrat becomes... Read More

Top US Diplomat in Ukraine Contradicts Trump’s Claim of No Quid Pro Quo Impeachment
Top US Diplomat in Ukraine Contradicts Trump’s Claim of No Quid Pro Quo

WASHINGTON — The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine told House impeachment investigators Tuesday that President Donald Trump directly linked an order to withhold much-needed American security aid to Ukraine to his demand that the country’s government publicly announce investigations into his political rivals — explicitly contradicting... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top