Federal Legislation Would Permanently Waive Environmental & Cultural Protection Laws Along All U.S. Borders, Across Public Lands
Two bills pending in Congress would eliminate 36 environmental and cultural protection laws along all U.S. borders, including those that safeguard clean air and water, preserve National Parks, Monuments and Wilderness, and protect imperiled wildlife.
These bills would also establish a de facto waiver of all laws across all federal public lands, giving the Department of Homeland Security unchecked authority over our parks, forests, rangelands, monuments and wilderness areas.
Border wall construction on Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.
(Photo courtesy of Matt Clark/Defenders of Wildlife)
• H.R. 1505: The "National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act" – This bill 1) hands Border Patrol the keys to all federal public lands nationwide and gives the agency unchecked power to construct roads, walls and “monitoring equipment” virtually anywhere; and 2) permanently exempts border enforcement activities from 36 environmental, cultural, and due process laws across all lands within 100 miles of both the northern and southern U.S. border. Click here to read the bill.
• S. 803: The "Border Security Enforcement Act of 2011," introduced by Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl–Similar H.R. 1505, this bill would also put the Border Patrol in charge of all federal public lands within 150 miles of the southern border, giving the agency unchecked power to construct any type of “tactical infrastructure” anywhere it unilaterally decides is necessary. Click here to read the bill.
Take Action and Stop Harmful Border Bills in their Tracks!
Click here to find out how you can help prevent these bills from becoming law. It’s time to stop cynical politicians from playing politics with border security, rural communities, and the environment.
If passed, these bills will undermine the successful, common-sense collaboration already occurring with land managers working on the ground, surrounding rural communities, and nearby landowners, and will cause untold damage to the health and integrity of the Sky Island region.
These measures are unnecessary and do nothing to improve border security. Even the U.S. Border Patrol does not consider these extreme measures necessary for border security efforts.United States Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald Vitiello testified at a Congressional hearing in April 2011 that Border Patrol "enjoys a close working relationship" with public lands agencies, and this relationship "allows Border Patrol to fulfill its border enforcement responsibilities while respecting and enhancing the environment." Click here to read U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald Vitiello's full congressional testimony.
The American public opposes waiving laws along the border and givingthe agency unchecked authority on public lands.Two recent polls confirm that the American public agrees with the U.S. Border Patrol that these extreme measures are unnecessary to address immigration issues, and there is strong public opposition to the use of legal waivers for the purpose of building border infrastructure.
- The 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll found that Western voters across the political spectrum overwhelming agree that it is unnecessary to suspend environmental laws along U.S. borders to address immigration issues. 73% of Arizona voters said as much, a higher percentage than any other western state polled.
- In 2011, SIA commissioned a nationwide survey which found that 64% of the American public oppose or strongly oppose waiving laws along the border for the purpose of building infrastructure.
Respecting environmental and cultural protection laws and securing the border are not mutually exclusive. Not only does Border Patrol disagree that environmental and cultural protection laws are not an impediment to border security, Deputy Vitiello testified unequivocally that "Customs and Border Protection is fully committed to continuing our cooperative relationships with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. We respect the missions of these agencies and we recognize the importance of the preservation of the American landscape."
These measures will end agency cooperation with rural communities and border-area landowners. Communities and landowners in the border region depend on the ability to communicate with Border Patrol agents on the ground and engage in common-sense cooperation with the agency so that private interests are respected and rural communities have a voice in federal decisions that have a profound impact on their daily lives.
- Click here to read more about the ongoing, successful multi-agency collaborative efforts that would end should these measures become law.
These Bills Jeopardize the Health and Integrity of the Sky Island Region
The key to a healthy landscape is connectivity between Sky Island mountain ranges, and this is especially important for wildlife such as jaguars, ocelots, mountain lions, bears, and other species that need a lot of room to roam. Landscape connectivity is also critical for many other, smaller species such as amphibians, reptiles, insects, pollinators, and even some species of low-flying birds, all of which can also be stymied by extensive habitat fragmentation. Extensive border barriers and security infrastructure degrades landscape permeability and compromises this connectivity. For species like the critically endangered jaguar and ocelot, whose recovery in the U.S. depends on the ability to migrate across the international boundary, this infrastructure and the intensive security activities associated with it can be devastating.
- A 2011 study from the University of Texas at Austin shows that current and proposed border fences between the United States and Mexico pose significant threats to wildlife populations.
- A 2011 study published in the journal Biological Conservation discusses how construction of border infrastructure may increase genetic subdivision and vulnerability to isolation in large mammal populations by bisecting movement corridors that have enabled dispersal between adjacent Sky Island mountain ranges.
Compliance with state and federal environmental laws is critical in order to ensure that these values are considered when infrastructure is being planned and installed, and can assist agencies in minimizing and mitigating any potential damage. Unfortunately, when these laws are brushed aside, the health of the entire region is put at risk.
- Click here to read more about the damage caused by the sweeping and unprecedented legal waivers currently in place along over 550 miles of the US-Mexico border, including virtually the entire southern border of Arizona.
For more information, please contact Jenny Neeley, Conservation Policy Director, at 520-624-7080 x27 or email@example.com.