July 8, 2011
by David O. Williams
Pew Environment Group officials on Thursday said a proposed U.S. House bill aimed at increasing border security gives “unprecedented authority to a single federal agency to destroy wildlife habitat and wetlands …”
The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505), debated Thursday by the House Natural Resources Committee, would allow the Department of Homeland Security to override 36 environmental laws and other types of laws governing the management of federal, state and private lands within 100 miles of the United States border and coastline.
“While we strongly support making America’s borders more secure, this sweeping waiver of the nation’s bedrock environmental and land management laws has little to do with accomplishing that goal,” said Jane Danowitz, Pew Environment Group’s director of U.S. public lands.
Introduced in April by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, H.R. 1505 would “prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from taking action on public lands which impede border security on such lands, and for other purposes.”
Bishop is chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and his bill would apply to 10 states in their entirety, including all of Hawaii and Florida (see detailed Pew map).
“The proposed legislation would give unprecedented authority to a single federal agency to destroy wildlife habitat and wetlands, impair downstream water quality and restrict activities such as hunting, fishing and grazing. It would leave Congress and the public without a voice, even though at stake are hundreds of popular destinations including Glacier National Park, the Florida Everglades and beaches along Cape Cod, the Great Lakes and the California coastline,” Danowitz said.
All in the name of border security, the bill would waive the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Wilderness Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Park Service Organic Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act.
“We urge lawmakers to reject this and any future attempt to undercut fundamental environmental protections that have been on the books for decades,” Danowitz concluded.