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Controversy over border wall erupts after saguaro video goes viral

Posted at 6:46 PM, Oct 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-11 21:46:02-04

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The controversy surrounding border wall construction inside the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument continues to grow.

The latest uproar is regarding a video of a bulldozer pushing a saguaro that went viral.

Naturalists claimed the project is not giving importance to the iconic saguaros and are outraged by what they saw.

Customs and Border Protection said, they are trying their best to protect the cacti during the construction process, and that this is all one big misunderstanding.

Border Patrol Agent Joe Curran told KGUN9, he saw the video. However, he adds he cannot speak for the actions of others.

“I can't speculate on the circumstances around that, but what I can say is that every salvageable cactus we are going to make every effort to relocate properly, but there will be some that will be deemed unsalvageable that need to be removed from the construction area,” Agent Curran said.

If you walk around the construction area, you'll also find chopped up saguaros.

Agent Curran says there's a reason for that.

“Any cacti that we deem unsalvageable, just to help our construction crews in that area, sometimes we will cut the cacti into smaller pieces,” stated Curran.

He says this process makes the most sense because every foot a cactus could weigh anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds.

So, what happens if an arborist deems a saguaro located in the 30-foot-wide path of the border wall?

“If it's a small [cactus], usually like 7 feet, we'll dig it up by hand and relocate it. Usually by a park or designated by national park service. Or if it's a larger saguaro, kind of like what we saw today, we'll bring in some heavy machinery with hydraulic lifts to move that cactus,” Curran added.

So far over 110 cacti have been relocated. The current plan is to have arborists check on the cacti every two weeks for about a year.

“Any effort we can make to preserve these cacti and to keep them in this national monument and preserved. That's a big win for us,” he told KGUN9.

Customs and Border Protection still has dozens more cacti to remove and are hoping to be done with the relocation process within the next couple of months.