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The Arizona Desert Wilderness Act is Waived for Border Wall

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act (AZDWA) into law, after it passed 356-45 in the U.S. House of Representatives and by a voice vote in the U.S. Senate. The efforts of prominent Arizonans like Stewart and Morris Udall, Barry Goldwater, John McCain, and Dennis Deconcini contributed to the passage of this legislation, which designated more than 1.1 million acres of wilderness in Arizona on public lands. Morris Udall’s comments about the importance of the AZDWA on the floor of the Senate were memorable: “The challenge of our generation is different. We must show ourselves capable of not only conquering nature, but also caring for it.” Wise words.

The Arizona Desert Wilderness Act designated 39 wilderness areas in Arizona, on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. Two of the three largest wilderness areas—The Cabeza Prieta Wilderness (803,418 acres) and the Organ Pipe Cactus Wilderness (312,600 acres) lie smack dab in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, very close to the border with Mexico. These two wilderness areas are home to a wide variety of desert species. Cabeza Prieta is one of the only two places in Arizona where the endangered Sonoran pronghorn are known to breed. The Organ Pipe Cactus Wilderness is another species-rich environment, which has recorded a resurgence of desert bighorn sheep since the passage of the AZDWA.

What would be the consequences of waiving the AZDWA to expedite the building of a solid wall on our border with Mexico? Two of the three largest wilderness areas in Arizona would be seriously impacted by the disturbance caused by building a wall, not to mention the effect of the wall itself. It would be impossible, for example, for Sonoran pronghorn in the U.S. and Mexico to locate each other to reproduce. The result for pronghorn would be two small, genetically less diverse populations permanently separated by the border wall, which would increase the likelihood of inbreeding in this endangered species. New roads and other supportive infrastructure for the wall could also be built with no consideration of their impact on movement corridors used by pronghorn and other migratory species. To put it bluntly, the Cabeza Prieta and Organ Pipe wilderness areas would no longer meet the definition of “wilderness.” Click here for a list of all 48 federal laws that have been waived for construction of a border wall.

Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives ( and let them know that you oppose waiving The Arizona Desert Wilderness Act to expedite construction of a border wall. Click here if you would like to make a donation to help us fight the border wall,

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