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It’s illegal to destroy saguaro cactuses. So why are they being removed for Trump’s border wall?

Posted by   /  February 28, 2020  /  No Comments

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The plants, sacred to Arizona’s Tohono O’Odham nation, have been chopped down. Federal officials say that most of the affected saguaros have been ‘carefully transplanted.’

A saguaro cactus lies on the ground after having been uprooted the day before by construction crews making way for new border wall on Puerto Blanco Drive in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. /Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

In Arizona, cactus rustling — stealing or killing the state’s iconic saguaros — is a felony. It’s illegal to shoot or deface the iconic cactuses or to remove them from parks, where the slow-growing succulents can reach more than 60 feet and live up to 200 years. Violators are pursued by state agricultural police, or “cactus cops.” 

Related: AZ tribal leader decries border wall construction: ‘That area is home to our ancestors

That hasn’t stopped federal contractors from plowing over saguaros to make room for President Trump’s border wall. 

At least a half-dozen saguaros were uprooted this month by crews clearing a dirt road next to new border fencing at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, about 150 miles southwest of Tucson, near the Lukeville border crossing.

Remains of the saguaros, some of which stood taller than the 30-foot wall, were dumped, under some other debris, near a hill that crews started blasting with explosives this month to build the wall. The company, Southwest Valley Constructors, has a $789-million contract from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to build 38 miles of border fence in the area.

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