Bulldozers to Tear Through Heart of Sonoran Desert for Trump’s Border Wall
(August 24, 2019) — Last week we received positive news on the border wall’s imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.
The win came shortly after the Center for Biological Diversity asked a federal judge to stop construction in 68 miles of the Arizona border via a filed injunction saying the government unlawfully ignored dozens of laws in place to protect wildlife habitat. The delay is set to last until October, leaving many environmentalists concerned this is only a temporary win.
On Thursday, EcoWatch teamed up with Center for Biological Diversity Borderlands Campaigner Laiken Jordahl via EcoWatch Live on Facebook to find out what we should expect to happen in the coming weeks and to gain clarity on the energy on the ground of our borderlands.
“This is an important win, but it’s so temporary and it’s important to stress that,” said Jordahl. “Bulldozers are already arriving on site in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the San Pedro River in Arizona.”
To find out more about this specific monument and surrounding area, watch this video, which is part of the Center for Biological Diversity series Border Views:
A temporary win means there is still a plan for bulldozers to tear through wildlife refuges in October. The department of homeland security will replace waist-high vehicle barriers currently in place with a “30 foot impenetrable wall, complete with night lighting and cameras on top,” said Jordahl. “It will have a profound impact on wildlife connectivity in ways that these vehicle barriers do not.”
Jordahl reiterated the importance of understanding the conservation aspects of vehicle barriers and how the border walls replacing them will have irreparable harm on wildlife — not only 93 endangered species at risk from the wall, but “virtually every single terrestrial animal [that will not be] able to cut across this impermeable barrier.”
“We are proposing quite literally to ram a border wall through the heart of the best Sonoran Desert habitat anywhere in the world,” said Jordahl.
What Can We Do About It?
The Center for Biological Diversity recommends a “huge outpouring of support and advocacy,” and that EcoWatchers reach out to Congress stating that we want “legislative protection for these nature areas.”
According to Jordahl Republicans want to approve $5 billion more for border walls which would wall off the rest of the U.S. Mexico border. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, please call Congress.
Border wall construction is already happening and underway in Organ Pipe. Currently the Center for Biological Diversity has a pending lawsuit, awaiting a decision by Sept. 4.
If they lose and Trump is allowed to waive any and all environmental protections to rush wall construction, they expect ground to be broken in almost 60 miles: through the entirety of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and across San Pedro River which is the last free flowing river in the American Southwest.
Jordahl says the most important things anyone can do are to raise awareness, to share videos like this interview and to help the Center Biological Diversity to reframe the argument and discussion around the border.
“If politicians in DC and most of the American public knew the reality of the land here, the beauty of the land and how fragile these ecosystems are, there’s no way we’d be talking about ramming a medieval wall through some of these expansive and beautiful nature areas,” said Jordahl.
Another thing EcoWatchers can do, if able, is take a trip to the border to see the borderlands for themselves. Some places Jordahl recommends visiting are Organ Pipe in Arizona and Big Bend in Texas. Jordahl’s view of the borderlands is one with flourishing national treasures, diverse wildlife habitat where black bears and jaguars dwell in the same place, rugged spectacular landscapes and seven different units of the national parks service.
Hidden Report Reveals Trump Water Plan Will Harm Endangered Whales and Salmon
(August 23, 2019) — It’s become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration’s policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.
The latest chapter in that book happened this summer in California when federal officials suppressed a scientific report that warned that the administration’s plans to deliver more water to farms in California’s Central Valley will push critically endangered California salmon even closer to extinction. It will also starve a threatened population of steelhead trout and West Coast killer whales that feed on the endangered Chinook, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Rather than cause the administration to rethink its policy, it treated science as something inconvenient. Two days after the scientists handed in the 1,123-page report, classified as a biological opinion, a fisheries official took it down. The Trump administration then replaced the scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service who had been drafting the biological opinion and brought in other staff to revise the biological opinion, as the Sacramento Bee reported.
In the initial report, released on July 1 and then suppressed, the National Marine Fisheries Service pulls no punches in forcefully concluding that the increased water deliveries will jeopardize the existence of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon. The agency wrote that the changes “will produce multiple stressors” on winter-run salmon “that are expected to reduce survival and the overall fitness of individuals,” the agency wrote, as the Los Angeles Times reported.
It went on to also highlight the hazards to threatened spring-run Chinook and threatened Central Valley steelhead, as well as endangered Southern Resident killer whales whose numbers are perilously low, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Environmentalists and salmon fishing groups classified the maneuver as a blatant attempt by the Trump administration to manipulate science in order to ratchet up water deliveries to a group of wealthy farmers who used to have a top Trump administration official on their payroll — a charge the administration denies, as the Sacramento Bee reported
“Literally before our eyes, we’re seeing science suppressed by monied political interests,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents commercial fishermen, to the Los Angeles Times.
The biological opinion that the administration put the kibosh on said that harmful impacts will include warm river temperatures lethal to fish eggs and newly hatched salmon; low flows in the Sacramento River; and an increase in salmon deaths at the enormous government pumps that send water south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The winter-run Chinook have been particularly vexing for conservationists. The fish is just one of nine species that are at most risk of extinction in the near future, the scientists wrote in their report, as the Los Angeles Times reported. Their odds of extinction has increased over the last decade, partly because water releases from Shasta Lake during California’s severe drought were too warm for salmon eggs and hatchlings. Four years ago, 96 percent of the eggs and new-hatched fish died.
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