The Tohono O'odham Nation, a Native American tribe in southern Arizona opposed to building a border wall that could imperil wildlife and artifacts in the area's fragile landscape, is accusing the Defense Department of failing to consult with it in line with federal requirements.
In a letter Feb. 7 to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, tribal Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said the department should have engaged in "meaningful consultation" with Tohono O'odham leaders because funding for the barrier is coming out of the agency's budget.
"The Nation respectfully requests that DOD immediately engage in government-to-government consultation ... and that no appropriated funds be expended on border barrier construction activity until such consultation has occurred," Norris wrote in the letter, which was shared with NBC News.
The Trump administration has plans to build 40 miles of wall along southern Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the adjacent Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. The Tohono O'odham Nation's reservation -- the second largest in the U.S. by land holdings -- is east of Organ Pipe, a 516-square-mile federally controlled park home to unique species of cactus recognized as a UNESCO ecological preserve.
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