Posted by Lucas Winzenburg
Note: This post originally appeared on the Arizona Trail Association website and has been republished here in its entirety.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently announced their plans to move forward with 74 miles of border barrier projects in Arizona, including construction of 30-foot-tall steel barriers through the Huachuca Mountains within Coronado National Memorial. The project would significantly impact the southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, transform the landscape and its visual resources, and forever alter the Arizona Trail experience. The proposed project includes 30-foot-tall steel barriers, the installation of a linear ground detection system, road construction, and the installation of lighting, which will be supported by grid power and embedded cameras. You can learn more about CBP’s project online here.
The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) is calling for CBP to immediate halt to all planning and preparation for the project, and is requesting members of the outdoor community contact their Senators to voice their opposition before May 15, 2020.
“The southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail is one of the most significant locations along the entire 800-mile trail,” said ATA Executive Director Matthew Nelson. “This is where the Arizona Trail begins, and where the dream of the Arizona Trail was born over 30 years ago. This location was intentionally selected as the cornerstone of the Arizona Trail because of its wild and scenic nature, and its historic significance – this is where Francisco Vázquez de Coronado first crossed into present-day Arizona. We are calling on everyone who loves the Arizona Trail to demand it be spared from the border wall.”
To read the ATA’s letter to CBP, which includes mitigation recommendations, click here.
“When Congress designated the Arizona Trail a National Scenic Trail in 2009, it was supposed to be protected in perpetuity from these types of impacts,” said Nelson. “If this project moves forward, the National Trails System Act will be the 42nd law waived to allow construction of the wall, along with the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, to name just a few.”
In addition to impacts to the Arizona Trail (a pillar of Arizona’s $21 billion outdoor recreation economy), a border barrier in Southern Arizona’s Sky Islands would bisect critical habitat for endangered jaguars and ocelots, and effectively end jaguar recovery efforts in the United States. “Wildlife are a vital part of the trail experience, and we are proud that numerous threatened and endangered species have been documented on the Arizona Trail,” said Nelson. “The Huachuca Mountains are an ideal location for ‘virtual fence’ infrastructure. A wall here is unconscionable, and would be absolutely devastating.”
CBP is accepting public comments via mail through May 15 at TucsonComments@cbp.dhs.gov.
You can read the ATA’s comment letter to Customs and Border Protection here.