A government watchdog’s 72-page document claims that Donald Trump’s wall, constructed along the U.S. border, caused “significant damage and destruction” to the environment. The damage also impacted Native American tribal sites surrounding the area.
According to a new report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the former president’s 30-foot wall, which was constructed to prevent migrants from illegally crossing into the United States, significantly disrupted the migration of endangered ocelots and caused irreparable damage to federal lands and sacred Native American tribal sites.
The steel wall, which stretches for about 458 miles across the southwest border, also impacted the flow of water resources. The GAO claimed that the damage occurred at the height of the wall’s construction, between January 2017 and January 2021. “Most (81 %) of the miles of panels replaced existing barriers,” the report, published Sept. 7, noted.
Agencies that helped to construct the massive barrier installed over 62% of the border barrier panels on federal lands, including on land managed by the Department of Interior. The wall caused significant damage to native vegetation and hampered the natural flow of water to some tribal areas. This has “threatened and endangered” fish species living near the border.
Some parts of the wall that were installed caused harm to historic sites and sacred locations near the border. In Arizona, a sacred site was “irreparably damaged” when contractors reportedly used explosives to clear room for an existing patrol road, the report, which cited Tohono O’odham Nation officials, claimed.
“Many saguaro cacti in Arizona, which are sacred to the tribe and found only in the Sonoran Desert, were also destroyed as contractors sought to transplant them away from construction areas, the report said,” NBC News noted.
Before Trump began constructing the wall, the GAO said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), who helped in part to build the massive barrier, took steps to “assess the potential impacts” of building the wall but laws to protect cultural and natural resources near the border were waived to expedite the construction of the project, the report claimed.
According to GAO, the CBP “solicited input from land management agencies, Tribes and the public” before breaking ground, but officials from all three parties said that information about the construction provided by the CBP “was not sufficiently detailed to facilitate meaningful input.”
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, requested the detailed report. He called Trump’s wall a “symbolic message of hate” and a “political stunt” in a post published to X, the app formerly known as Twitter, Sept. 7.
“We now know for certain it has caused immeasurable, irreparable harm to our environment & cultural heritage,” Grijalva penned Thursday.
Now, the determined politician is urging lawmakers to send $225 million from Homeland Security to the Interior Department and Forest Service to help restore all of the damage near the border.
“What makes Trump’s border wall so egregious is that his administration waived dozens of environmental, public health, cultural preservation and even contract procurement laws to build it,” Grijalva told the Associated Press. “Before construction even started, communities, tribes and other stakeholders were raising the alarm about the colossal damage that bypassing such fundamental protections would have.”
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