Friday, July 29, 2011

New Amendments Threaten Protected Lands

US representative Gosar has introduced two amendments (no. 20 and 55) to the Department of the Interior's annual appropriations bill that would do tremendous damage to our nation's protected federal lands. Representative Gosar’s (R-AZ) amendment No. 20 is an extreme attack on public lands even more overreaching than recent controversial legislation (H.R. 1505). Under this amendment the U.S. Border Patrol would be exempted from any regulation that would “impede or obstruct” patrol activities on every acre of federal land throughout the United States, putting national treasures at risk and throwing away a century of laws designed to protect our natural resources.

What federal lands would be put at risk?
All of them. This amendment decimates environmental and other protections on every single acre of federally owned lands, from areas in the southwest already at risk from Border Patrol Activities, like the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, to places far from the border, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
• This amendment is NOT restricted to areas near the southwest border or even to areas near all borders, as past legislation has proposed.

What laws would be overturned?
All of them. This amendment is even more overreaching in its impact on federal lands than the controversial H.R. 1505 because it is not restricted to a long list of environmental regulations, but prevents the enforcement of any regulation, even those put in place for safety and other reasons.
• Other regulations that could be completely ignored are those that support economic development, allowing Border Patrol to interfere with grazing, mining, and drilling for oil and gas on public lands.

What Border Patrol activities would be exempted from any oversight?
• All of them. The amendment does not clearly define what “impede or obstruct” means or who would decide whether a law or regulation meets this standard and could therefore be ignored.
• The amendment is even more overreaching than past bills on the Border Patrol because it does not limit exempted activities to “operational control” – or activities specifically intended to prevent illegal entry into the country. Instead it exempts all “patrol activities” which, without definition, could mean any activity undertaken by the Border Patrol.
• This will create conflict between agencies that have begun to work very effectively together to resolve issues surrounding Border Patrol activities.

Is the amendment even needed by the Border Patrol?

No. The amendment would override multiagency coordination that has been occurring on Federal lands since a 2006 Memorandum of Agreement between the Departments of Homeland Security, Interior, and Agriculture that has led to increased cooperation and leveraged resources.
• 22 out of 26 Border Patrol stations on the southern border with Mexico report that the border security of their area of operation has not been affected by land management laws beyond some minor delays. Instead, factors like rugged terrain—and not access delays or restrictions—have the highest impact on operational control.
• Exemptions already exist that allow Border Patrol Officers in pursuit to continue onto any federal land regardless of regulations or laws. Other exemptions have also been established administratively to ensure the Border Patrol has the access necessary to secure the border.

In addition, Rep. Gosar has also introduced amendment No. 55, another extreme attack on federal lands. Similar to amendment No. 20, this amendment would exempt the Border Patrol from any environmental review, from protecting clean air and water, from honoring and respecting the history and culture of native people, from preserving biodiversity, and more.

Who isn’t hurt by this amendment?
Representative Gosar’s friends in industries like oil and gas drilling, grazing, mining, and logging are taken off the hook in this updated version of amendment No. 20. Amendment No. 20 exempts the Border Patrol from “any regulation” meaning that rules allowing for development and resources extraction could also be trampled by any Border Patrol activities. Amendment No. 55, however, spares these special interests and instead focuses its attack on the environment, biodiversity, and native people.

What environmental and cultural laws would be overturned?
A similar list of laws to that found in H.R. 1505 is included in the amendment. These laws represent a century of bipartisan efforts to protect the environment, intelligently manage public lands, and demonstrate respect for historical and cultural sites.

The exempted laws include:

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.)
The Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.)
The National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.).
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.)
The Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.).
The Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (16 U.S.C. 18 470aa et seq.).
The Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f et seq.).
The Noise Control Act of 1972 (42 U.S.C. 4901 et seq.).
The Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.).
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.)
The Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act' and the Archaeological Recovery Act (16 U.S.C. 469 et seq.).
The Antiquities Act (16 U.S.C. 431 et seq.).
The Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act (16 U.S.C. 461 et seq.)
The Farmland Protection Policy Act (7 U.S.C. 4201 et seq.).
The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq.).
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.).
The Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.).
The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 (16 U.S.C. 668 et seq.).
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.).
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (42 U.S.C. 1996 et seq.).
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.).
The Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977 (31 U.S.C. 6303 et seq.)

What Species would be impacted?
The bill waives compliance with all provisions of the ESA on federal lands. Species throughout the nation that would be impacted include

In the Southwest
• Mexican spotted owl
• Desert tortoise
• Jaguar
• Ocelot
• Sonoran pronghorn
• Chiricahua leopard frog

Elsewhere in the country
• Florida Panther
• Canada lynx
• Polar bear
• Hawaii akepa (honeycreeper)
• Leatherback sea turtle
• West Indian manatee

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