Trump is blowing up a national monument in Arizona to make way for border wall

Explosives truck spotted just north of Organ Pipe./Photos: Courtesy of Laiken Jordahl

By Ryan Devereaux | The Intercept

CONTRACTORS WORKING FOR the Trump Administration are blowing apart a mountain on protected lands in southern Arizona to make way for the president’s border wall. The blasting is happening on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a tract of Sonoran Desert wilderness long celebrated as one of the nation’s great ecological treasures, that holds profound spiritual significance to multiple Native American groups.

In a statement to The Intercept, U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the blasting began this week and will continue through the end of the month. “The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector,” the statement said, referring to an area also known as Monument Hill. “The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month.”

The agency added that it “will continue to have an environmental monitor present during these activities as well as on-going clearing activities.”

Magnified view of Monument Hill, in Organ Pipe National Monument, where border wall construction crews began using explosives this week 

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, told The Intercept that he has zero faith that the Department of Homeland Security’s “environmental monitor will do anything to avoid, mitigate, or even point out some of the sacrilegious things that are occurring and will continue to occur, given the way they’re proceeding.”

Grijalva’s blunt assessment is based on a visit he made to Organ Pipe last month, alongside archaeologists and leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose ancestral homelands and sacred burial sites are in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump’s border wall expansion. One of those burial sites lies just beyond the westward advance of the border wall, Grijalva explained. “It’s right in the path,” he said, meaning that “the one indignation of the blasting on the hill is shortly to follow with other indignations and disrespect.” According to Grijalava, “DHS had mentioned to the tribes that they would back off on developing the hill, but the work is still being done.”

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