The State of Arizona is contributing over $2 million to help restore environmental damage along the southern border, after the unauthorized installation of a shipping container wall last year harmed U.S. Forest Service land.
In 2022, the State of Arizona constructed a wall made of stacked shipping containers along the southern border on federal lands, including areas within the Coronado National Forest. This construction project involved clearing native vegetation, trees, and re-contouring terrain on sensitive federal lands without obtaining proper permits or authorization.
The federal government filed a lawsuit against Arizona officials for trespass, ejectment, interference with easements and other constitutional violations. The lawsuit sought immediate halt of construction, removal of the shipping containers, and damages to restore the federal lands.
As part of a settlement agreement, Arizona agreed to cease installation of containers and remove all shipping containers already placed on federal property. The state then undertook extensive initial remediation efforts on the damaged lands, including re-contouring of terrain, removal of downed trees, and clearing of waterways impacted by the unauthorized construction.
According to Starr Farrell with the Coronado National Forest, this first phase of remediation was crucial but additional restoration will be needed over the next few years to fully undo the environmental damage.
“They did a lot of work, re-contouring, bucking and repelled downed trees, clearing of the water ways, that work can continue,” Farrell said. “Now we’re able to move forward do the last of the remediation work.”
However, full remediation efforts are expected to continue for at least two years, as the Forest Service monitors affected areas and conducts reseeding and invasive species control.
“That could be over a couple of years as we do invasive species monitoring and reseeding in this area,” Farrell explained.
To support the ongoing restoration, Arizona paid the U.S. Forest Service an additional $2.1 million as part of the lawsuit settlement. The funds will allow continued revegetation and rehabilitation initiatives along the border region within the Coronado National Forest.
With the shipping containers removed from federal lands and environment restoration efforts underway, the federal lawsuit against Arizona was voluntarily dismissed on September 15, 2023.
In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice emphasized the importance of respecting property rights and collaborating on comprehensive border security strategies.
“We appreciate the collective support in seeing this situation through, including remediating the land where the containers were placed,” said Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General.
U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino also noted, “When Arizona unilaterally placed hundreds of shipping containers on tribal and federal land back in 2022, it made the border less safe. The containers have now been removed and the land restored.”
Through cooperation to resolve the unauthorized shipping container wall installation, Arizona has taken responsibility for restoring the federal lands damaged by the project. The multi-year remediation efforts aim to return the sensitive border region environment to its natural state after the intrusion.
Cover photo courtesy of: Electronic Frontier Foundation