Watchdog report reveals environmental damage caused by border wall

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A recent report by the Governmental Accountability Office, a nonpartisan government watchdog, studied the impacts of border construction from 2017 to 2021.

It described government contractors blasting sacred Indigenous burial sites with explosives, and that the feds reportedly relied on national security provisions that allowed them to bypass protections.

“They were able to waive all federal and state laws along the border to build this wall, which means they can ignore environmental impacts, impacts to clean air impacts to wildlife, but also they can ignore all of the important federal laws about Native American burial sites and sacred sites,” said Bryan Bird, the Defenders of Wildlife Southwest program director.

The report also reveals that it had deadly impacts on wildlife habitats, including endangered species like the Mexican Gray Wolf, which rely on migrating across the border for their livelihood.

“Since that 100 miles of impenetrable border wall went up, animals can no longer cross to find water, find food, find mates,” Bird said. “So it’s actually the first time we’ve cut off a continental migration of animals.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also said that foot traffic from undocumented crossings and illegal activity took a toll on wildlife. More than 500 tons of trash are left behind each year along the southern border.

The reporting agency laid out three recommendations to federal officials for mitigation efforts, which all include consulting with tribal leaders on the next steps. It’s unclear when they will meet.