NPCA submitted the following statement to members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations ahead of a markup scheduled for September 26, 2019.
NPCA urges senators to take action to protect our national parks when the Appropriations Committee considers the FY2020 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill.
New border wall is currently under construction at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. Contractors are starting with replacing the existing pedestrian barrier and plan to move on to replacing the existing vehicle barriers by October. The impact of the new wall on the landscape is striking and devastating. This is being done using Department of Defense funding without congressional consent or direction. As currently written, the FY2020 DHS appropriations bill does nothing to stop this construction or mitigate the damage, nor does it prevent similar projects from moving forward at public lands across the border region. If construction continues, the damage could very well be irreversible.
On May 7, 2019, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced a plan to build a 30-foot bollard wall along the majority of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument’s 30-mile border and 15 miles of neighboring Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, as well as a small segment of the border in Coronado National Memorial, replacing primarily existing vehicular barriers.
While CBP opened a comment period that ran until July 5, DHS waived 41 environmental laws covering the project areas on May 15 and contracts were awarded on May 16. It’s clear that the comment period was just window dressing, not intended to have any significant impact on the construction plan. DHS has ensured that even the expertise of land management agencies like the National Park Service is not given the weight it deserves, as is demonstrated by the recently revealed NPS report on archaeological resources at Organ Pipe.
In providing an additional $5 billion in border wall funding and no restrictions on the use of DOD funds, the committee would not only allow more projects to move forward, it effectively provides a stamp of approval for the projects at Organ Pipe, Coronado, and other public lands along the border. NPCA urges senators to support any amendments that would strip border wall funding from the current bill or expand the language protecting portions of the Rio Grande Valley to include the rest of our irreplaceable public lands along the border.
There is no question that border security is vital to our country, which is why it’s so important we get it right. We need to look for solutions that are as unique as our landscapes and communities. And ensure the solutions we find don’t destroy the national treasures we’ve committed to protecting. A border wall is not the answer, for our national parks or our border communities.
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Associate Director, Government Affairs