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Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say

Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say
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A government assessment recently obtained by an environmental group appears to link a well the group says is used in U.S.-Mexico border wall construction to low water levels in wildlife habitats at an Arizona refuge with endangered species. 

Defenders of Wildlife on Monday published the June government assessment that found the Glenn Ranch Well “is significantly impacting wells located at San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge.”

“This correlates with why some ponds at the Refuge are void of water, and why it is so difficult to maintain water levels at other ponds that currently have threatened and endangered fish species,” it says. 

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According to Jacob Malcom, director of the Defenders of Wildlife's Center for Conservation Innovation, the well is used by the federal government to make concrete for the wall. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to The Hill’s email seeking comment and confirmation on what the well is used for. 

According to Defenders, this puts the endangered Yaqui catfish, beautiful shiner, Yaqui chub and Yaqui topminnow fish species at risk.  Also facing threats are the Chiricahua leopard frog, Mexican garter snake and Huachuca water umbel plant, the group said in a statement. 

Malcom, who is also a former biologist at the refuge, told The Hill that for some species, less water means a loss of habitat and an inability to survive. 

“One of the big threats to the water umbel is the loss of wetlands. If it dries out too much, the species just cannot grow,” he said.  “When the water is lost, the wetlands are lost they lose their habitat and they simply can’t exist there anymore.” 

The San Bernardino refuge, along Arizona’s border with Mexico, stretches for 2,369 acres. It was established in 1982 to protect wetlands, including the San Bernardino ciénega, which is considered the largest and most extensive in the area, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.