Republicans have a new way to evade environmental laws. A border security bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security to supersede environmental laws. (More)

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah and Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz have each introduced such legislation. Both bills are aimed at drug and human smuggling on our Southern border but also include the border with Canada. The Minneapolis Star and Tribune has a front page story.

More than 30 environmental laws would be waived and the Department of Homeland Security would be allowed to build roads, erect fences, set up monitoring equipment and use vehicles to patrol public lands within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders, according to proposed legislation in the House.

Rep. Bishop’s bill (HR1505), the National Security and Federal Protection Act, provides:

Prohibits the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from impeding, prohibiting or restricting the U.S. Border Patrol’s efforts to gain full operational control within 100 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico and Canada
Allows the Border Patrol access to public lands in order to conduct the following limited activities necessary to their border security operations:

Construct and maintain roads
Construct fences
Use of vehicles for patrol
Install, maintain, and operate surveillance equipment and sensors
Use aircraft
Deploy temporary tactical infrastructure, including forward operating bases
Provides the Border Patrol with the same environmental waiver authority included in the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 utilized by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff during the 2008 construction of the fence along the U.S./Mexico border.

From the Star and Tribune:

The bill’s goals are in lockstep with the Pledge to America, a 48-page policy agenda set forth by House Republicans in 2010. That document contains language to “prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands.”

Jane Danowitz, director of the U.S. public lands program at the Pew Environment Trust, said Homeland Security officials didn’t ask for the legislation and she thinks that’s significant.

“We’re talking about legislation that would basically, under the guise of national security, undo environmental laws that have been on the books for decades,” Danowitz said. “These are popular protections.”

The Pew Environment Trust has more information including a sample letter to send to your congress person to oppose HR 1505.

You can see a map of the affected area here.

If your state borders Canada or Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security would have operating authority 100 miles in from the border. On the Northern border Glacier Peak Wilderness, Glacier National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the Allegheny National Forest, Bristol Cliffs Wilderness, White Mountain National Forest, and Acadia National Park would be subject to this new law. On the Southern border Joshua Tree National Park, Cabrieza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Saguaro National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and Big Bend National Park are included. Some good size cities are also included.

What can you do?

If you live in a border state write your Senators and Representatives. There is a petition to sign at the Pew Environment Trust standing against HR1505. Talk with Fred so that those who are likely to fall for the border security line also realize that the bill guts environmental protections that have been in place for years. As Jane Danowitz says:

This legislation represents a serious threat to a long list of bedrock environmental protections that for decades have safeguarded the health and well-being of Americans. Improving national security and border protection is critical to our country, but waiving core conservation measures will not accomplish this goal.

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