FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Border Wall and the Environment

Photo by Tony Webster | CC BY 2.0

One of the only good things about the failure of Congress to agree upon the future of DACA recipients (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is that Trump’s fantasy about a border wall was not funded yet (which you may remember Mexico was going to pay for).

Many see the Border Wall controversy as a humanitarian issue and a financial folly. Worse, according to many experts, a border wall would be ineffective in preventing illegal immigration.

However, yet another lesser known aspect of the Border Wall controversy is the recent introduction of legislation designed to facilitate construction of infrastructure, roading, surveillance stations, and more within 100 miles of any American border without any environmental or other regulatory laws.

For instance, the Border Security for America Act 2017 (H.R. 3548) introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and co-sponsored by 77 Republicans and not one Democrat would waive 36 environmental laws, including the Wilderness Act, the Migratory Bird Act, the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, among others within a 100 mile stretch along all American borders including Alaska, the northern border with Canada as well as the southern border by Mexico.

In other words, it would give Homeland Security and the Customs and Border Protection agencies, almost unlimited ability to vacate and violate with immunity many of our most precious environmental law and our most sacred landscapes including national parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges.

A hundred mile swath of  borderlands takes in such wild places as the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, Wrangell-St Elias National Park, Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, Olympic National Park, Pasayten Wilderness and North Cascades National Park in Washington, Great Bear and the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, Lostwood Wilderness in North Dakota, Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota, Apostle Islands Wilderness in Wisconsin, Isle Royal National Park in Michigan, Breadloaf Wilderness in Vermont, Wild River Wilderness in New Hampshire, and Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine just to name a few of the many areas that could be affected. Along our southern border, are such special places as Cabaza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe National Monument, Saguaro National Park in Arizona, are among the areas that could be impacted by recent legislation.

An analysis by Wilderness Watch found that the legislation if enacted, would potentially impact 73 designated wildernesses totaling 32 million acres along the northern border alone!

A second bill, the “Secure Our Borders and Wilderness Act” (H.R. 3593), from Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), would directly amend and weaken the 1964 Wilderness Act. This bill would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to access structures, installations, and roads; use motor vehicles; use and land aircraft; deploy “temporary” infrastructure, including forward operating bases; and construct and maintain roads, all in designated Wildernesses!

Many see this as an end run around environmental protections across the county by using the fear of illegal immigration as an excuse to waive environmental regulations. The legality of this action is being challenged by a number of environmental groups, however, the problem of border security and its impacts on other American values is still an open question.

Even if Congress fails to pass border wall legislation, Trump is already waiving environmental regulations piecemeal. Just this past January, he waived environmental laws affecting a 20 mile stretch of the border near El Paso, Texas. This is the third time the President has dictated waivers of national laws.

We don’t need to compromise the integrity of our most sacred and wild landscapes to protect the nation. Indeed, the Border Patrol has worked for decades maintaining border security without significantly compromising our premier wildlands and parks. These legislative efforts are simply Trojan Horses designed to undue the Nation’s premier environmental laws using national security as the excuse.

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
Thomas Knapp
Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die
Louis Proyect
The Revolutionary Films of Raymundo Gleyzer
Sarah Anderson
If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics
Victor Grossman
Contrary Creatures
Tamara Pearson
Children Battling Unhealthy Body Images Need a Different Narrative About Beauty
Peter Knutson
The Salmon Wars in the Pacific Northwest: Banning the Rough Customer
Binoy Kampmark
Means of Control: Russia’s Attempt to Hive Off the Internet
Robert Koehler
The Music That’s in All of Us
Norah Vawter
The Kids Might Save Us
Tracey L. Rogers
Freedom for All Begins With Freedom for the Most Marginalized
Paul Armentano
Marijuana Can Help Fight Opioid Abuse
Tom Clifford
Britain’s Return to the South China Sea
Graham Peebles
Young People Lead the Charge to Change the World
Matthew Stevenson
A Pacific Odyssey: Around General MacArthur’s Manila Stage Set
B. R. Gowani
Starbucks Guy Comes Out to Preserve Billionaire Species
David Yearsley
Bogart Weather
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail