Thursday, April 15, 2010

Let Border Patrol in wilderness areas, Bishop says

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced a bill Wednesday seeking to end the Interior Department's current practice of denying the U.S. Border Patrol access to wilderness and other protected federal lands along the Mexico-U.S. border. He said that would ensure that Interior's policies "no longer enable dangerous criminals to co-opt federal border lands as their drug trafficking highways." Bishop for months has been calling for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to change the policy on his own. Bishop, the ranking Republican on a subcommittee that oversees national parks and public lands, visited the border earlier this year and said he saw many problems caused by current policy. "After seeing firsthand so many signs of illegal activity on our border, including trails cut into federal border lands and the environmental degradation caused by trafficking trains, I requested that Secretary Salazar take immediate action," he said. But Bishop complained, "Salazar has repeatedly ignored requests for his attention on the matter and seems to have blown off concerns regarding national security and safety issues." So Bishop introduced a bill through which Congress could force the changes he seeks. Kendra Barkoff, Salazar's press secretary, said progress is being made on the border, and Salazar went there last month to tour the area and hold meetings with numerous federal agencies about challenges there. "Collaborative work between DOI staff and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has allowed for border security infrastructure to be strategically located, including on federal lands, to meet DHS security requirement and goals," she said...more

There's that collaboration word again...a dead giveaway nothing is being done.

In addition to Bishop, who is ranking on the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, the bill, H.R. 5016, was co-sponsored by Natural Resouces Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (R-WA), Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Peter King (R-NY) and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX).

We owe these four Rep's a special thank you for recognizing the problem and trying to do something about it. Bishop and Hastings especially have been on top of this issue for some time, and this legislation will bring more attention to the issue.

That being said, we all recognize this bill is probably going nowhere in this Congress. I'd be surprised if they can even get a hearing on the bill. Perhaps they can find a hoss on Appropriations who can get some "no monies shall be spent" language inserted as an interim measure.

I predict we'll see task forces created, meetings held, MOUs signed...more "collaboration." That's it.

Want to see some real change in favor of this proposal? That will come in November.

Fox News has an excellent article on the introduction of the bill and surrounding issues here.

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