Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced their plans yesterday to construct border barriers through the Huachuca Mountains within Coronado National Memorial and across the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Beginning Monday, July 13 the southernmost two miles of the AZT will be closed in the interest of public safety during construction activities. For the foreseeable future, the Arizona Trail's southern terminus will be at Montezuma Pass Trailhead, not at the U.S./Mexico border. This project will significantly impact the southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, transform the landscape, and forever alter the Arizona Trail experience. The border barrier project includes 30-foot-tall steel barriers filled with concrete, the installation of a linear ground detection system, and the installation of lighting, which will be supported by grid power and embedded cameras. In addition to a 100-foot-wide road along the border wall which will be frequently driven by Border Patrol agents, CBP will also build an access road down Yaqui Ridge that will be within 50 feet of the Arizona Trail. “The southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail is one of the most significant locations along the entire 800-mile trail,” said ATA Executive Director Matthew Nelson. “This is where the Arizona Trail begins, and where the dream of the Arizona Trail was born over 30 years ago. This location was intentionally selected as the cornerstone of the Arizona Trail because of its wild and scenic nature, unencumbered views, and the level of protection offered within a National Park Service unit. Construction of the border wall here is an affront to multiple generations who have worked tirelessly toward the construction, maintenance and protection of the Trail.” Despite over 7,000 public comments in opposition to the project as well as a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last month that determined diverting $2.5 billion Congress appropriated for the military violated the Constitution, CBP is moving swiftly to complete border barrier construction. “This is devastating to the Arizona Trail and the trail community,” said Nelson. “I hope everyone with a connection to the Arizona Trail and public lands reaches out to their Congressional representatives to express their concerns.” Click Here to Send a Message to Your Representatives
In addition to impacts to the Arizona Trail (a pillar of Arizona’s $21 billion outdoor recreation economy), a border barrier in Southern Arizona’s Sky Islands will bisect critical habitat for endangered jaguars and ocelots, and effectively end jaguar recovery efforts in the United States. “Wildlife encounters are a vital part of the trail experience, and the border wall will sever the international lifeline for these animals,” said Nelson.
Click here to watch footage of an ocelot in the Huachuca Mountains, captured with remote sensor cameras last year.
The ATA proposed a suite of mitigation recommendations, including utilizing virtual fence technology instead of physical barriers; or rehabilitation of the landscape after border wall construction; or investing money into the state-administered Arizona Trail Fund for trail construction, maintenance and protection projects along the other 798 miles of the Trail. CBP refused the first two recommendations and lacked authority to comment on the third.
Click here to read the ATA's letter to CBP.
Our mission is to protect, maintain, enhance, promote and sustain the Arizona Trail as a unique encounter with the land. The ATA takes a very pragmatic approach to projects that may impact the trail and the trail experience, and works diligently to ensure there is no net loss to trail resources. Sometimes this includes negotiating with the project proponent to modify their plans; other times it involves the need to the move the Arizona Trail; and on occasion the ATA must stand firm in opposition to the project. The ATA strives to be a good neighbor and support the diverse uses on public land while remaining true to our mission and vision. We don’t comment on projects that do not have a direct impact on the Arizona Trail. The ATA’s Strategic Plan (2016-2020) states: Unless the Trail can be protected against extrinsic threats, the Trail may fail in its objectives or be physically compromised by changes in land use or agency priorities. Protecting the Arizona Trail from these types of threats is the unique role and responsibility of the Arizona Trail Association. We understand that everyone has opinions about the border wall, immigration, and homeland security. We sincerely respect your opinion. The ATA has always welcomed everyone to enjoy the Arizona Trail and we are proud of our inclusive nature. We welcome every non-motorized recreational preference, faith, age, gender, culture, socio-economic status, and political persuasion into the trail community. For decades, the Arizona Trail has been the unifying force that brings people together, and we remain committed to that ethos. This is not about politics – it’s about protecting a nationally significant resource for present and future generations, while respecting previous generations who helped lay the foundation for the trail and the organization.