Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Barriers aren't just for the border now

The landscape of saguaros, mesquite trees and prickly pear cactus here has a new feature - steel railroad rails welded into crisscrosses and connected by flat rails. This rusting structure is a vehicle barrier designed to stop drug and people smugglers who barrel across the desert in trucks. The barriers are common at the international line - there are more than 139 miles of them along Arizona's stretch of U.S.-Mexico border. But this isn't the border. This 1.3-mile stretch of "Normandy-style" vehicle barriers was recently erected 70 miles north of the border on the Bureau of Land Management's Sonoran Desert Monument, just south of Interstate 8 and southwest of Casa Grande. It is likely the first time border barriers have been used this far north, and the latest example of how managing public lands along the U.S.-Mexico border is now as much about dealing with trash and trails left behind by illegal border crossers as it is about monitoring endangered animals or watering holes. BLM officials put up the barrier to redirect traffic around the federally protected Table Top Wilderness Area, where cars are prohibited. Smugglers have carved a grid of illegal roads through the wilderness area as they cross the O'odham land and cut through Table Top on their way toward Phoenix, inflicting serious damage to the habitat...more

BLM is having to construct vehicle barriers 70 miles north of the border trying to protect a wilderness area. This demonstrates the gross inadequacy of Bingaman's  5 mile strip and surely the politicians are beginning to recognize the inappropriateness of wilderness on or near the border.

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