The Rape of Pipe Organ National Monument

Hate to say it, but I think I’m getting cabin fever, and anxious for spring.

Actually, I haven’t been shut in the house. If you have a Labrador retriever you have to regularly go out and get some mutual exercise. I’ve certainly gone out and shoveled snow, and by now it would total in multiple tons. I’ve also been skiing just about every week since the hunting season ended in January. 

I sat in on an evening of fly-fishing films a couple weeks ago, and one of them gave me the urge to go to Costa Rica and go fishing for machaca, a fish that lives in small streams that flow down from the mountains to the sea. The machaca are a primarily vegetarian fish that live on fruit and flowers that drop from trees that hang over the river. 

You might think that fruit-eating fish might be a gentle sort, but you’d be mistaken. The fish are highly tuned in to the plop of a falling fruit and they rush in to grab it before another fish beats them to it. If that fruit turns out to be a fly, it tail-walks like a trout or smallmouth bass. I did some more reading on machaca and learned that fly anglers generally use poppers in various colors such as green, yellow, orange and red to match local flowers and fruit, as well as black and white, to match a favorite treat, bird poop. 

No, I didn’t make that up.

Surprisingly, the machaca is related to the notorious piranha of the Amazon, and the fish do have an impressive array of teeth, though they’re mostly used for crushing and grinding fruit.

Just to confuse things, machaca is also the name of a Latin American food, mostly based on shredded beef, and used to make tacos, burritos, and other dishes.

That’s the sort of things we learn in the process of trying to learn about something else. 

I also learned about abundant opportunities for fly-anglers in Costa Rica, ranging from tarpon along the coast to rainbow trout in the mountains above 9,000 feet. 

Is a trip to Costa Rica on my bucket list? Probably not, but it’s a reminder of the virtually endless opportunities in this crazy world of fly-fishing.

Wall construction through Monument Hill. Photo credit Laiken Jordahl Center for Biological Diversity.

A bit closer to home, though not a lot closer, there have been a number of reports in the press about the latest in sacrileges in the president’s border wall, with the latest being construction going through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.

The Organ Pipe is a unique area of desert, which has been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations as a “pristine example of an intact Sonoran Desert Ecosystem.”

Administration spokespeople confirm that “controlled blasting” has begun on the Monument. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) condemns the construction project as “sacrilegious.”

Among things that are happening in the process is bulldozing of 200 year old cacti, and destruction of Native American artifacts going back 10,000 years. 

Along the path of destruction is Monument Hill, an area sacred to the Tohono O’odham Nation and the site of an ancient battle with Apache Indians, and where O’odham people respectfully buried dead Apache warriors. 

An internal National Park Service report obtained by the Washington Post indicated that the planned border wall route through this monument alone would destroy up to 22 archeological sites.

How can the Administration just ignore Native American archeological and cultural sites, and rip through a world heritage site? The Administration bases their actions on the 2005 Real ID Act, which gives the Federal government the right to waive laws that conflict with national security policy.  In the Pipe Organ, the Administration has waived dozens of laws that protected Native American graves, endangered species, and the environment, including desert aquifers and ancient saguaro cacti, which O’odham people see as “the embodiment of their ancestors.”

This is just one of the many ecological disasters happening on our public lands under the tender care of the Trump Administration.

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