Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Cleaning trash left by illegal immigrants

Sometimes weird things bring people together. In Arizona, trash does just that. Efforts to clean up the rubbish presumably left behind by illegal immigrants not only physically unites distinct groups - like the Pinal County inmates and dozens of volunteers who spent Saturday morning sprucing up Ironwood Forest National Monument - but also create an ideological common ground. Skroch, executive director of Arizona Wilderness Coalition's Tucson office, called the scope of the trash removal over the past decade "absolutely amazing." He credits the Southern Arizona Project, a federally-funded effort administered by the Bureau of Land Management, which was started in 2003 to curb the damages caused by illegal immigration and smuggling on Arizona's borderlands. The project, which was championed by then Congressman Jim Kolbe and eventually approved by Congress, gave Arizona $695,000 to clean up its borderlands - an area that stretches about 100 miles north of the border. The project funding, which has to be re-allocated each year, has been raised fairly steadily since its onset. By fiscal year 2009, the funding was up to almost $1.14 million. Its price tag isn't the project's only big number. In fiscal year 2010, the Southern Arizona Project removed more than 255 tons of trash. And the BLM's Deborah Stevens said it's not just small things, like water bottles and discarded photographs, that are picked up. In fiscal year 2010, 364 bikes and 77 vehicles were removed from Arizona borderlands. Bikes and cars are often used, and then ditched in the desert, by illegal immigrants and smugglers, she said...more

Word is that Senator Bingaman has not ruled out reintroducing his Wilderness bill that would create hundreds of thousands of acres of Wilderness on or near our border with Mexico.

Hopefully he will simultaneously introduce a bill to create and fund the Southern New Mexico Project, as the trash will soon be heading our way.

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