Monday, April 18, 2005

Environmental activists ignore trails of human waste and trash in national wildlife refuge and on Indian reservation near Mexican border

Empty sardine cans, discarded clothing, and soiled diapers litter the ground, sheets of used toilet paper hang from bushes alongside desert trails. These are the trails used by countless illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico into the United States in Arizona.

Illegals from Mexico and other Latin American countries have left the trails of refuse over the years. They have marred scenic ranches, beautiful desert borderlands, foothills, forests and wildlife sanctuaries.

A hiker in the national wildlife preserve.

Beau McClure, special assistant with the Bureau of Land Management for international programs, calls the problem “Very severe. It is near crisis conditions in many areas."

The well-worn illegal immigrant trails (ie: "highways") littered with trash.

Cleanup efforts have scarcely dented the problem. The trash has continued to pile up despite Border Patrol crackdowns that have added agents and high-tech equipment to try to stop the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who brave the Arizona border each year.

The environmental degradation has become among the migration trend's most visible consequences.

The Bureau of Land Management received $1.3 million from Congress during the past two years to clean up trash and restore damaged lands.

Rancher's ruined land

Most often, ranchers, park rangers and other employees end up picking up trash in the course of their daily work.

Volunteers picking up trash left behind by illegals.

Plastic 1-gallon jugs, which immigrants use to carry water for their desert treks, are among the most common litter.

Conservatively, every adult crosser is thought to carry at least a gallon of water.A few years ago, there were 45 abandoned cars on the Buenos Aires refuge near Sasabe, and enough trash that a volunteer couple filled 723 large bags with 18,000 pounds of garbage over two months in 2002.

Illegal immigrants coming through the [natural wildlife] 117,000-acre preserve daily have a high potential to affect its wildlife as they've impacted its endangered or rare plants, said Sally Gall, acting refuge manager.

Private property of a US citizen

At the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, once a pristine backcountry, illegal immigrants have trampled, snapped and burned plants and worn wide footpaths in the ground. In fields or along desert washes in other areas, migrants may burn mesquite for campfires or tear up grasses to make shade coverings.

Smugglers are responsible for much of the damage done along the border, where they tear up vegetation while cutting new trails with stolen vehicles, at times driving on rims through barbed-wire fences.

What the Arizona plains used to look like

Warner Glenn, a rancher east of Douglas, said the human waste is the biggest problem.

"When you take a hundred people a night going up through this valley and when they have to go to the bathroom ... they do not dig a hole of any kind," said Glenn. "It's all exposed."

On the Tohono O'odham reservation, human waste that contaminated hand-dug wells in one village forced the tribe to truck in water.

"The real public health risk from human waste is if it is able to get into a water supply," said Will Humble, bureau chief for disease control with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Ranch land before the illegal tsunami of the past decade.


Article excerpts: US Border Control
Photos: HiJinx "EcoDisaster on our Southern Border"