Environmentalists Seek to Protect Environmental Degradation

From Peyton Knight:

The environmental agitators over at Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club are up in arms over a recent decision by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to waive a U.S. District Court Judge’s decision that blocked construction of a border fence in Arizona. The environmental groups had successfully sued for a restraining order to halt the fence’s construction in early October, claiming the fence would harm the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA).

In waiving the judge’s decision, Chertoff cited the “unacceptable risks to our nation’s security” should the fence project be delayed.

“I have to say to myself, ‘Yes, I don’t want to disturb the habitat of a lizard, but am I prepared to pay human lives to do that?” said Chertoff.

But Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife, claims that building a border fence through a portion of the SPRNCA will “rob America of one of its most important wildlife areas.”

Someone should inform Ms. Clark that Americans are already being robbed of the area and a border fence might put a halt to the thievery.

According to Chertoff:

The SPRNCA has been a high traffic area for smugglers for several years. In fact, last year over 19,000 illegal entrants were apprehended in the area – 11 percent of whom had criminal backgrounds. Unfortunately, among these illegal entries, there were also 14 deaths. So there is a clear need to establish effective control of this part of the border for security, as well as humanitarian reasons.

But there are also environmental reasons to stop illegal crossings in the SPRNCA. Illegal entrants leave trash and high concentrations of human waste, which impact wildlife, vegetation and water quality in the habitat. Wildfires caused by campfires have significantly damaged the soil, vegetation, and cultural sites, not to mention threatened human safety. Indeed, illegal entry in and around the SPRNCA is such a problem that the Bureau of Land Management has had to impose restrictions on public recreation due to high levels of smuggling activity, vehicle thefts, and assaults.

Indeed, the environmental assessment that was performed for the border project determined:

No significant adverse effects to air quality, water quality, cultural resources, unique areas, soils, threatened or endangered species, protected species, wetlands or land use are expected.

The assessment also found that failing to build the fence would have the following negative impacts:

– “[I]llegal traffic would continue to damage vegetation thereby causing synergistic impacts on wildlife.”

– [I]llegal traffic would continue to damage unique and sensitive areas by causing accidental wildfires, creating trails, and discarding trash.”

– “Indirect impacts due to illegal traffic trampling habitat and threatened and endangered plant species.”

The assessment also concludes that, if the fence is built, “beneficial impacts to wildlife populations are anticipated by protecting habitat from drive throughs” and “protection of threatened and endangered species is likely to occur.”

The threat that illegal border crossings pose to the wildlife in southern Arizona is nothing new, as experts have sounded off on this before.

Apparently, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club prefer the current method of protecting wildlife at SPRNCA. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees the SPRNCA, has posted bilingual signs in the area that ask illegal immigrants not to litter.

As Bill Childress, BLM manager of the SPRNCA, told the Associated Press in 2003: “We’re letting [illegal immigrants] know they’re entering a protected resource. We’re hoping they will treat our protected areas with respect.”

And why wouldn’t they? It’s not like they have any prior record of breaking our laws.

To contact author Peyton Knight directly,
write him at [email protected]


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