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U.S. House Approves Legislation That Would Toss Aside Environmental Laws Protecting National Parks


A package of bills that would toss aside environmental laws and regulations protecting a number of national parks passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, though its prospects in the Senate were unclear.

The package, if it managed to become law, would give the U.S. Border Patrol wide-ranging access to lands managed by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and other federal lands that lie within 100 miles of an international border.

Parks that fall within that 100-mile swath include Big Bend, Isle Royale, Everglades, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Glacier, North Cascades, Voyageurs, Virgin Islands, Olympic, Redwoods, Channel Islands, and all the national seashores.

Environmental laws and regulations set aside by one piece of the package, H.R. 1505, include The Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Antiquities Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the Fish and Wildlife Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, and the National Parks and Recreation Act, among others.

"This is just one more example of the House attempting to push something through the Congress that is extreme and an overreach," David Moulton, senior legislative director for The Wilderness Society, told the Traveler on Tuesday evening. "I think we can beat it in the Senate, but we have to keep up the pressure.”

The House vote was 232-188. Sixteen Democrats voted for the bill, while 19 Republicans opposed it. Whether the Senate takes up the measure is unclear. Currently, there is no companion bill in the Senate, where rules could make it difficult to move a stand-alone bill. However, said Mr. Moulton, a senator could try to amend the package to a "must-pass bill," such as an appropriations measure or transportation bill.

The Wilderness Society official said if the measure somehow became law, it "would allow road building, construction and development on lands that are loved for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities. This vote was not in the best interest of the people who enjoy the land for its natural beauty.”

The main architect of H.R. 1505 was U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who long has sought to free the U.S. Border Patrol from observing environmental laws in its bid to secure the country's borders.

"This legislation is the right thing for this country," the Republican said earlier Tuesday in a release. "At the end of the day, this matter is far too important to go unaddressed and shoring up these trafficking corridors will help close the gaps that are preventing us from having a truly secure border."

General Accounting Office reports, however, have struck down Rep. Bishop's contention that environmental regulations are hamstringing the Border Patrol.

Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee have launched a website called DRONEZONE that allows Americans to look at national, state, and even Congressional district maps to see if they live or could potentially visit this expanded DHS patrol area.

“This is theater of the absurd,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, the Ranking Member of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee. “Republicans have wanted to gut these laws for decades, and each excuse seems to get a little flimsier. They’re not afraid to invent new reasons to get their way, and when those run out they just use the old ones again. The days of scaring everyone by shouting ‘national security’ are long over, and Republicans would do everyone a favor by admitting it.”


We have two Democratic candidates who will square off in primary elections next Tuesday. One of them will be running against Rob Bishop in November.

But given the almost complete lock that Republicans hold on Utah's voters, chances of either of them winning are slim.

Rep. Grijalva is absolutely correct. It is theater of the absurd. But in Utah that is the normal state of things.

Here is a link to an article just out from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Please reread the revised version of the bill that was voted on (it's very short), not the bill as orginally proposed and revise your article.

The committee revised the bill to apply to public lands within 100 miles from international land borders, not all international borders as initally proposed. While not ideal, it does reduce the amount of public lands that will be impacted including many of the ones you cited.

Anon--"Not ideal" is a curious phrase to apply to the part of the bill that applies to bogus border security. Within the 100-mile zone of the Canadian and Mexican border lie all or parts of 16 national parks with a combined acreage of more than 21.5 million acres. There are more than 142,500 acres of national seashores, and almost 494,000 acres of national monuments within that zone. Add the millions of acres of USFS and BLM lands and you are talking about a considerable amount of land that will be open to anything the Border Patrol wants to do--build roads, erect antennas, install forward operating bases--all without any environmental review since the bill revokes NEPA and without consultation with the Department of the Interior or of Agriculture since the Secretaries are prohibited from impeding the acitivities of the Border Patrol

All this at a time when all reliable reports say that illegal immigration is declining in the US and when the Border Patrol and the Secretary of Homeland Security say the bill is not needed. What a crock!


Well Rick, if the border patrol and Secretary of Homeland Security don't deam it necessary then it wouldn't appear they will build roads,antennas, etc.

Anon--That point of view discounts the fact that were another administration to assume office, there would be a different Secretary and a different Chief of the BP. It is better to work to assure that this kind of bill, with its false promises of increased border security, not be enacted by the Congress.


Rick, then those Secretary and Chief would think the law was necessary. Why would their opinion be less relevant - other than it doesn't support your opinion. And, while I too don't believe this is the most effective way to address the problem, I challenge you to prove these measures would be ineffective (I.e. are "false promises")

Anon, I visited Organ Pipe a couple of seasons ago and had opportunities to speak with three ORPI law enforcement rangers, the superintendent, four Border Patrol agents and one man who works in electronic information gathering for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

ALL of them told me that the capture rate for illegals crossing the border is HIGHER inside wilderness areas than on private lands elsewhere along the border. The reason seems simple enough. When they detect movement from their wide assortment of electronics, they can simply check wilderness permits with the appropriate agency (NPS or BLM) and if no permits pop up, they can be pretty sure it's something illegal and not a rancher rounding up cows or spreading manure. In fact, the DPS man commented that we'd be better off if we turned all the border lands into wilderness.

Speaking of spreading manure -- our Representative Rob Bishop (Utah 1st Congressional District) -- is an expert at that. He's the one pushing this stupidity in Congress. I can assure you that given Rob's record of anti-environmental blathering, this has very little to do with "security" and much more to do with handing the west over to a wider array of land developers and extractive industries. Privatization is one of Rob's favorite words. Despite being a chronic twister of facts and inventor of even more falsehoods, Mr. Bishop has the magic letter R beside his name on ballots. In Utah, that is enough to be elected without question. But there is some hope this year. Many more sensible Utahns seem to be waking up and we have a couple of excellent opponents standing up to Robby.

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