I would like to thank George Ochenski for bringing attention to an extreme assault on America’s public lands and environmental laws (see “What a steal,” Sept. 22, 2011).
If it passes, the misnamed National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505) will waive more than 30 environmental laws along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, the entire U.S.-Canada border, and along all U.S. coastlines. The lawless zone would then extend 100 miles into the U.S. from the borders and coasts for any activity of the Department of Homeland Security intended to stop undocumented immigrants or contraband from entering the country.
Roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population lives in the area covered by this waiver. Cities from San Francisco to Boston to New Orleans to Honolulu would no longer have the safeguards of the Safe Drinking Water Act and many other public health laws when it comes to DHS activities. Huge areas of public land in Montana, including Glacier National Park, would likewise be put at risk. With environmental laws waived throughout so much of the country, the potential for severe damage is enormous.
In addition, H.R. 1505 prohibits the departments of the Interior and Agriculture, which oversee our national parks, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges, from taking any actions to preserve the natural integrity of the lands that they oversee if their actions or advice conflict with the desires of DHS. This is despite the fact that Customs and Border Protection recently testified that the agencies have a good working relationship, and that public land managers are not getting in the way of their operations.
The Department of Homeland Security has not requested either the waivers or carte blanche on protected lands. The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act has nothing to do with security. It is simply an assault on environmental laws and federal lands, using national security as a cover.
National Sierra Club Borderlands Team