Thorny issue: Ancient cacti uprooted for border wall construction

Environmental activists allege hundreds of saguaro cacti have been wrongly uprooted 

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 30 June 2020 16:54 BST
Ancient cacti uprooted for border wall construction

The Trump administration has been accused of destroying hundreds of ancient saguaro cacti in Arizona as Donald Trump’s border wall construction continues across the state.

Environmental activists allege that “hundreds and hundreds of ancient saguaros” have been pulled down since border wall construction began.

That includes saguaro uprooted within the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an International Biosphere Reserve home to the protected cacti.

Arizona state law prohibits anyone from harming, shooting or removing saguaros, which can grow to more than 45 feet in height and live up to 200 years, according to the US National Parks Service.

Still, the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS) has uprooted hundreds along the border wall some 100 miles south of Yuma, Arizona, where president Trump celebrated 200 miles of wall being completed last week.

An ex-Organ Pipe park contractor who now works with The Centre for Biological Diversity, Laiken Jordahl, has documented the destruction online.

“[DHS] continues to topple ancient saguaro cactuses for border wall construction at Organ Pipe,” wrote Mr Jordahl on Twitter, along with video showing the fallen plants.

“I’ve been documenting this horror story for months. Hundreds and hundreds of ancient saguaros have met a similar fate,” continued Mr Jordahl. “The Trump Admin is crushing everything in its path to build this wall of hate”.

The activist also condemned the saguaro destruction because the plants are deemed sacred to the local Tohono O’odham people, who have “fought the wall strenuously from day one”.

He last criticised the DHS over two ancient cacti that were uprooted in February, which he said were “likely older than the border itself”.

US Border Patrol said at the time that more than 90 per cent of cacti within the border wall construction area at Organ Pipe have been transplanted.

Mr Jordahl told The Los Angeles Times that he was sceptical about those claims, and said: “Every time I visit I see hundreds of butchered cacti."

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told The Independent that it was working alongside the National Parks Service to minimise impacts on protected and sensitive plants.

CBP added that 1104 Cacti have been relocated within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument since 17 February 2020.

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