Environmentalists raise more concerns as shipping container border wall continues in Cochise County

By Alisa Reznick
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2022 - 9:23am
Updated: Tuesday, November 1, 2022 - 9:24am

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Shipping containers on the Arizona-Mexico border
Center for Biological Diversity
Shipping containers on the Arizona-Mexico border in the Coronado National Forest.

As Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's shipping container wall continues to advance along a stretch of border on Coronado National Forest land in Cochise County, conservationists monitoring wildlife are expecting the worst.

Emily Burns, program director with the Sky Islands Alliance, says her group began placing wildlife cameras in the area in 2020, as the Trump administration’s 30-foot steel bollard border wall was going up and severe drought was causing animals to need to travel further to find water and food. Burns says cameras have captures 26 different mammal species, including black bears, mountain lions, javelina and ocelots, but very few instances of migrants crossing.

"Over the last few years, the number of animals that have been detected on camera have been going down," she said.

Burns says the only place the dip didn’t happen was at the southern slope of the Huachuca Mountains, a rugged, roughly 30-mile stretch of borderland that remained without a wall. 

"That’s the only place that we’re studying that actually has more animal activity going on in 2022," she said. "Which is really significant, because it shows that maybe animals are depending on this cross-border connection more readily here, and that maybe they're recovering from the drought of a few years ago."

But in October, shipping containers commissioned by Ducey’s office started getting stacked there. Burns says her group saw containers arrive at the beginning of the month and have since watched some 40 get set up. The project is expected to cost $95 million, include 3,000 containers and span 10 miles.

Burns says in addition to cutting off wildlife, she worries the freshly-bulldozed ground could become unstable with heavy rain and the containers could get dislodged. 

"They're going to act like battering rams, and they could really create a whole path of destruction if they start floating and taking out more oak forest in the U.S. or in Mexico," she said. many of our drainages are draining south into Sonora, we'd be sending large metal boxes to our neighbors to the south." 

Federal officials have said the containers on federal land in Yuma and Cochise counties were placed permission and called on Ducey to remove them. Arizona has filed a lawsuit to allow them to stay.