Trump’s campaign could not be immediately reached for a response on Thursday.
The report reveals that vehicle barriers in remote areas have been replaced with pedestrian barriers, making migration more difficult, especially for endangered species such as wolves, ocelots and the Sonoran antelope, a Antelope-like animal.
Larger barriers also had a larger footprint and often included lighting, which could further harm wildlife in the area.
Construction of the border wall disrupted water flow during heavy rains, worsening flooding, the GAO found. Contractors also drained groundwater from the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, which in turn dried up some ponds and threatened water levels in others containing endangered fish.
The construction also “caused significant damage and destruction” to Indigenous cultural sites, the report said. Explosives used to clear the way for a patrol road damaged parts of Monument Hill in Arizona, which was historically used for religious ceremonies by the Tohono O’odham and other tribes. The contractors also destroyed a burial site in the Sonoran Desert near a holy spring, the GAO found.
The Biden administration’s decision to immediately suspend construction in 2021 has brought its own negative effects, including incomplete water drains and other structures.
Other sites have been left with unfinished reclamation work, which could allow invasive plant species to take hold in place of native vegetation. And many saguaro cacti that are sacred to the Tohono O’odham and were transplanted to avoid construction, eventually died when watering and tending ceased.
Customs and Border Patrol have taken action since President Joe Biden took office to address the situation, but the focus has been primarily on managing security risks, such as the removal of security bars. armature exposed, the GAO said.
The agency has also worked with the Home Office on environmental mitigation, but it “could benefit from documenting a common strategy that clearly defines roles and responsibilities for funding and implementing reduction measures ; identifies costs and sources of funding, as well as timelines for implementation; and specifies when they will consult the tribes.
Grijalva said environmental restoration and mitigation work “must be led by science and input from the right stakeholders, including tribes and communities along the border.”
“So many shortcuts were taken in the construction of the wall – let’s not repeat history by cutting corners in repairing the damage it caused,” he said.
CBP should also “assess lessons learned” from its previous assessments of the impacts of the barrier, which often lacked enough data and detail for proper analysis, the GAO found.
CBP and the Interior have agreed to implement the recommendations, according to the watchdog. Inside declined to comment. CBP did not immediately return a request for comment.