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FRIENDS OF THE SONORAN DESERT (FSD) is the only national non-governmental organization to regularly participate in quarterly meetings with representatives from federal and state agencies and local wildlife organizations to review and provide oversight for their programs in the Sonoran Desert.

The September 2019 meeting in Yuma was a wake-up call for participants. They learned that that the Department of Defense (DoD) will soon seize the public and private lands on which it will build the border wall because it is illegal for DoD to spend money on land that is not under its control. This surprised all of the government officials, who had not been informed by their superiors of the implications of DoD participating in building the border wall. Participants immediately understood that this seizure of land by DoD could threaten wildlife (and other resources) for which they are responsible.

There is no information available about how much land the DoD will take, how it will manage the land, and how much land will be destroyed during construction of the wall (and afterward). In preparation for building the border wall, DoD has already waived many laws that require planning and citizen oversight of Federal government activities on public lands—in other words, citizens no longer have a say about actions that will impact their land and communities. DoD also has waived procurement requirements that ensure effective use of public funds and prevent waste and corruption.

In the past DoD has been a conscientious steward of land under its jurisdiction, like the Goldwater Military Range. But DoD is now under intense pressure by the Trump Administration to build the wall before the 2020 election, no matter what, and this haste may cause even more damage to these public lands. FSD, other conservation organizations, and border communities are concerned about the fate of these significant parcels of land, which include large swaths of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Very troubling is that wall construction will drain or damage precious ground water in the area, which will negatively impact border communities, private land owners, and local and migrating wildlife. The entire ecosystem is at risk because the laws protecting it have been waived.

The ploy of the Trump Administration to use military funds to build the border wall, an unconstitutional use of Federal monies, is being legally challenged. But much damage can be done to the land before court cases are settled. Only Congress can move quickly enough to stop it. Please give a generous donation today to help FRIENDS OF THE SONORAN DESERT continue to work to protect the Sonoran Desert.

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