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Trump Destroying the Desert

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Of all Trump’s many crimes, what he’s doing to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument by building his stupid border wall through one of the sensitive ecosystems in the world may not seem to rate very high. But it is a horrifyingly awful crime against both humans and nature.

Midway down a cactus-covered hill in one of the driest parts of Arizona is a miracle: a spring. Water continually streams out of the ground, down a small channel, and into a pond.

Quitobaquito Springs, as the area is known, is one of the only reliable above-ground water sources in the Sonoran Desert. This oasis long provided water to the Hia-Ced O’odham, a tribe indigenous to the area, and records of human use and habitation go back more than 10,000 years. It’s also home to two endangered species found nowhere else in the United States: The Sonoyta pupfish and Sonoran mud turtle.

“The spring is regarded as sacred, a living element provided to all from our Elder teacher,” says tribal elder Ophelia Rivas, referring to the O’odham Creator God.

But this once-quiet spot within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is in trouble. The flow of water, in slow decline since the 1980s, has dropped about 30 percent since March. The pond is at its lowest level in more than a decade, exposing mud flats throughout—a potentially urgent situation for its endangered animal inhabitants.

The pond is 200 feet from the U.S.-Mexico border, and contractors have already dug a six-foot trench for an electrical grid within a stone’s throw of it. Walls are going up several miles to the east of the spring in Organ Pipe and to the west in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. As construction advances closer to the spring, many people fear that the large quantities of groundwater that contractors withdraw to make concrete for the wall could exacerbate falling water tables and dry up the spring. Quitobaquito is probably fed in part by a regional aquifer that’s already been drawn down by agriculture.

“It’s unbelievable; it’s just horrible; it’s going down and down,” says Christina Andrews, a Hia-Ced O’odham leader, of the spring flow and pond level. She’s visited the spring since childhood, and has never seen it so depleted. “It feels like a violation of innocence.”

Another genocidal act from a racist government invested in white supremacy.

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