Monday, June 06, 2011

Environmentalism vs. Border Control: A Complex Battle of Survival

Federal agents must abandon their vehicles and chase drug smugglers and illegal aliens on foot through 40 acres near the Mexican border because of a pond that is home to the endangered desert pupfish. It’s part of the agreement between the Homeland Security and Interior departments on how best to protect the ecosystem, frustrating lawmakers who say it also prevents agents from conducting routine patrols. Pupfish aren’t the only critters confounding the Border Patrol in its pursuit of illegal aliens. There’s also the Chiricahua leopard frog, Mexican spotted owl, lesser long-nosed bat and the Pima pineapple cactus. And access isn’t just limited to buffer zones for endangered species, it includes entire "wilderness areas" designated by Congress and some areas of national parks and monuments. The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits the Border Patrol from entering its 4.3 million acres in a vehicle or by helicopter. Nor can it put surveillance cameras in the area or build communication towers. “If you ask the supervisors and managers if this has an impact on operations, they will tell you, ‘Hell yes,’ ” said Kent Lundgren, communications manager of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers. The Border Patrol respects the desire of environmental groups and land managers to protect environmental species, Lundgren said. “But along the border, national security and public safety ought to trump anything else,” Lundgren said...more

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