Border Patrol and the environmentby Hugh Holub on Aug. 04, 2011, under border issues, politics
A very important debate has emerged over whether environmental laws need to be suspended in the borderlands so the Border Patrol can secure the border at the border.
There are serious limitations on the Border Patrol’s ability to secure the border at the border on federally-managed lands.
HR 1505 addresses that problem by suspending environmental laws 100 miles from both land and ocean borders of the US on federally owned lands.
HR 1505 only applies to federal lands:
(b) Authorized Activities- The Secretary of Homeland Security shall have immediate access to any public land managed by the Federal Government (including land managed by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture) for purposes of conducting activities that assist in securing the border (including access to maintain and construct roads, construct a fence, use vehicles to patrol, and set up monitoring equipment).
So the entire state of Florida is not being exempted from environmental laws as was claimed.
The basis for the 100 mile zone is this is the same zone the Border Patrol is authorized to operate in to try and catch illegal aliens and drug smugglers.
Some call this 100 mile zone the “Constitution Free Zone“…and they are right.
In refining the environmental exemption legislation, the exemption zone should be more like 30 or 50 miles from the land borders on federal lands. In Arizona that exemption should include the area south of Interstate 10 because there are federal land corridors open all the way from the border to the Interstate.
The environmental objection to waiving environmental laws does not recognize any need to put national security ahead of environmental protection right down to the actual border. Protecting wildlife comes first to environmentalists. People are second.
Obviously environmentalists want wilderness areas right up to the line…even if this means those wilderness areas can be exploited by drug smugglers and illegal aliens. A new chunk of wilderness area is being proposed by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman. (S 1024).
Frank DuBois at The Westerner posted what people think of this wilderness proposal here. Not too much in fact. Another wilderness area on the border is a stpid and dangerous idea given what has been going on in our very own Pajarita Wilderness Area.
You just have to take a look at the Pajarita Wilderness Area west of Nogales to see how well the preferencing of environmental protection against securing the border has worked to protect the integrity of that wilderness area. It is a burnt mess covered with immigrant trails and peppered with empty shell casings from automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
The border bandits that shot Border Patrol agent Brian Terry used the Pajarita to enter and flee the US.
An overwhelming majority of Americans are not going to tolerate protecting a wilderness area on the border when that leaves the land open to drug smuggling and illegal entry.
The amount of environmental damage being caused by drug smugglers (who start fires) and illegal aliens who trash the countryside….is far greater than any damage the Border Patrol could do.
Right now protecting the environment takes precedence over protecting national security. That is absolutely clear reading environmental opposition to HR 1505.
Now…assuming a middle ground exists (except with radical environmentalists) that would limit the exemption to 30 or 50 miles from the land borders…..
A very legitimate issue is raised by oppponents to HR 1505 about the ability of the Border Patrol to operate in a sensisitve and engineeringly correct manner.
Examples are cited of the Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security doing stupid and careless things and not using basic common sense.
I can cite worse examples of this than environmental groups can just from my experience in Nogales.
The Border Patrol would weld plates over city storm drains so our streets would flood.
The Border Patrol actually constructed a wall in the “covered tunnel”‘ …. the main drain between Nogales, Sonora snd Noghales, Arizona…. obstructing the flow of storm water and flooding part of downtown Nogales, Sonora.
So I would not support giving the Border Patrol and DHS carte blanche to do whatever they wanted in an “exemption” deal.
I would require the any plans of the Border Patrol for fences and walls and roads would have to be reviewed by some other agency…such as the US Army Corps of Engineers….to make sure what the Border Patrol wanted to do was done well and without destructive consequences like flooding a neighboring city.
But that review should not result in saying no road at all because the land is a wilderness area….it should focus on how to build the road with the least consequences.
That review can take into account environmental mitigation…but not open the door for US Fish and Wildlife to extort $50 million from DHS in exchange for allowing the Border Patrol to work on federally managed lands.
However, we are unable to have a meaningful discussion about how to secure our border and protect public safety because environmentalists are dug in saying no waiver no how and demanding that protecting the environment always trump national security.
If environmentalists see using the national security card as a way to trump their cherished environmental laws and set a precedent for ultimately rebalancing environmental protection with economic development…they are probably right.
Take a look at all the endangered species fights around the country….worms are being put ahead of economic development. You can’t drill for oil or build a solar array or a wind farm in this country without some litigious environmental group attacking, claiming species protection comes first and always.
Once people realize environmentalists always put lizards and worms ahead of people and our economy and public safety, maybe a lot of people will step back and start looking closely at what the real agenda of our radical environmental groups is.
They obviously do not want you to do that.
Background info on Endangered Species Act: