The National Park Service is beginning to map out hundreds of old smuggler roads along the Arizona border. The agency plans to return scarred land to natural desert.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument runs along the Mexican border and was a popular crossing point for drug smugglers for most of the past decade. As a result, the desolate, lonely park is now cobwebbed with more than one thousand miles of what park officials call unauthorized roads.
Sue Rutman is a botanist in charge of restoring them.
“It’s a tough job in a very large area that is remote and difficult to access,” Rutman said.
The old smuggler roads may be abandoned by traffickers, but tourists have started hiking on them. The agency is using a $3-million grant to close them off and re-vegetate with plants from a local nursery. But first, the agency has to find them all.