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.

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail