Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New BLM efforts to guard Arizona National Monuments

An article in the May 8, 2012 Arizona Republic newspaper has some devastating information on National Monuments near the border with Mexico.

In  two National Monuments in southern Arizona they have recently found 160 abandoned vehicles, 110 bicycles, miles of illegal roads, 27,000 lbs. of marijuana, 24 tons of trash and "acres of plastic water bottles, coats, backpacks and other items cast off after trekking for days from the U.S.-Mexican border to rendezvous points 75 miles to the north." 

Below are some excerpts, but please read the entire article and then ask yourself:  Why would anyone ask the President to create 600,000 acres of National Monuments in southern New Mexico?

Since October, the Bureau of Land Management has expanded its operations at two national monuments in southern Arizona, trying to crack down on smugglers and illegal immigrants who trample and trash the pristine desert on their way north from Mexico. The federal agency has brought in more than a dozen law-enforcement rangers from other states to beef up patrols at the Sonoran Desert National Monument, south of Phoenix, where towering saguaro cactuses, wide-open valleys and flat-topped mountains create one of the most iconic vistas in the Sonoran Desert. The operations also have focused on the Ironwood Forest National Monument north of Tucson. Because of their remote locations and ample hiding places, the monuments have become superhighways for violent smugglers sneaking drugs and illegal immigrants from the Mexican border into Arizona. The smugglers have cast off acres of trash and created miles of illegal roads by plowing through the desert with disregard for the fragile vegetation, often using stolen vehicles that are driven until they break down and are abandoned, authorities say. During seven two-week operations, the agency's rangers have seized more than 27,000 pounds of marijuana and arrested more than 1,200 illegal immigrants, according to the BLM. That is in addition to the thousands of pounds of drugs and thousands of illegal immigrants arrested by law-enforcement authorities. The agency also has removed 60 abandoned vehicles, 110 bicycles and more than 24 tons of trash, enough to fill 1,239 garbage bags. And the agency has covered up more than 15 miles of illegal roads. But some of the agency's work to protect the pristine desert areas from smuggling activity has caused concern among conservation groups...In 2000, President Bill Clinton created the Sonoran Desert and Ironwood Forest national monuments to protect them from urban sprawl extending south from Phoenix and north from Tucson...The smugglers have carved foot trails that spider through the desert and have left behind acres of plastic water bottles, coats, backpacks and other items cast off after trekking for days from the U.S.-Mexican border to rendezvous points 75 miles to the north along I-8, the main highway smugglers use to transport drugs and illegal immigrants to stash houses in the Phoenix area or to California. "There is quite a bit of damage done by smugglers," said Thom Hulen, executive director of the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, a group that advocates for the monument's protection. "In addition to all the damage and all the trash, (the smuggling activity) scares people away. They get spooked."...more

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