Republican border bill threatens wildlife at national parks

Big Bend National Park in the Texas border with Mexico.

A controversial legislation, HR 1505 proposed by Republican Rob Bishop from Utah would damage environmental lands by granting the Department of Homeland Security unrestricted access to areas within 100 miles of the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, wrote Carolyn Lochhead with The San Francisco Chronicle.

“Bishop argues that the Border Patrol needs total access to wilderness areas, some including wildlife corridors, that smugglers use to cross the borders with impunity. Rep. Brian Bilbray, D-Carlsbad (San Diego County), said illegal immigrants and smugglers have been trashing wilderness areas along the border. Republicans argued that the national parks along the border “have been turned into personal landfills for illegal border crossers,” where smugglers dump trash, leave human waste, destroy vegetation and start wildfires. They also cited dangers to visitors, including increased robberies and auto theft.”

“Opponents include Latino, tribal and outdoor groups and land owners who contend the legislation would give the Border Patrol way too much power, including the power to use not just motor vehicles, but using vehicles, build roads, fences, housing and airstrips. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Co., said the Border Patrol already has authority to pursue illegal immigrants through wilderness areas.”

Border safety is important; however, given the reduction of violence along the American side of the border, the increase in legal immigration and the decrease in undocumented immigration into the country giving DHS powers it does not want seems both unnecessary and unwarranted,” wrote Kristian Ramos, Policy Director of the 21st Century Border Initiative at NDN for the Hufftington Post.

The legislation could affect national parks including: Redwood, Joshua Tree, Channel Islands, Big Bend, Isle Royale, Everglades, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Glacier, North Cascades, Voyageurs, Virgin Islands, Olympic, and all the national seashores.

Lochhead reports that the legislation would override about 40 environmental, safety and other regulations, including the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Antiquities Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the Fish and Wildlife Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, and the National Parks and Recreation Act, among others.

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About tanialara

Tania Lara has a vast experience working as a journalist in Mexico and the U.S. reporting in-depth about the economic contributions and realities of Mexican immigrants. This summer, she will be covering border issues and elections for the 21st Century Border Initiative blog. Her stories about complex cross border matters have been published in Spanish-language media outlets including CNN México, Expansión, and ¡Ahora Sí!, as well as the English-language newspaper The Austin American-Statesman.
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