Photo by Luke Swenson

Atascosa Borderland Project

Tuscon, AZ & Portland, OR

Created by ecologist Jack Dash and documentary photographer Luke Swenson, the Atascosa Borderlands is a visual storytelling project combining botanical survey, oral history, and documentary photography to explore the complex culture and ecology of a notoriously rugged landscape.

The Atascosa Highlands is an area of incredible biological diversity and rich cultural history, and is also known for border wall construction that disrupts both human and ecological life along the Mexico and US border.

“These ancient cacti at the border, their arms raised to the sky in supplication, have witnessed the concept of a border taking shape, and many have fallen victim to this culture which will build a straight road at any cost, even in this remote canyon where the geology, topography, and ecology all seem to invalidate the notion of a solid boundary.”

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Atascosa Borderlands

Ancient populations of silverleaf oak, saguaro, and sweet acacia inhabit the Atascosa Highlands with no sense that the land around them is divided between the US and Mexico. But as the border wall imposes a hard boundary, this island of biodiversity in the Sonoran Desert faces an increasingly fragmented future.