WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled House moved toward approval Tuesday of a bill that would allow the Border Patrol to circumvent more than a dozen environmental laws on all federally managed lands within 100 miles of the borders with Mexico and Canada.
Supporters say the measure is needed to give border agents unfettered access to rugged lands now controlled by the Interior Department and Forest Service. Laws such as the Wilderness Act and Endangered Species Act often prevent agents from driving vehicles on huge swaths of land, leaving it to wildlife, illegal immigrants and smugglers who can walk through the territory undisturbed, they said.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said the restrictions have turned wilderness areas into highways for criminals, who not only bring in drugs but also abuse and rape women and leave behind thousands of tons of trash.
“Drug traffickers couldn’t care less about environmental sensitivities,” he said. “The removal of these criminals from our public lands is a value to the environment as well as the mission of the land managers.”
But opponents, including hunters, conservationists and Hispanic advocacy groups, call the bill a heavy-handed fix that guts important environmental protections. They also question whether the measure is needed along the vast Canadian border, where there is scant evidence that illegal immigrants are hiking through national parks or wilderness areas in an attempt to slip into the U.S.
Read More at OfficialWire. By Matthew Daly.