Tuesday, March 5, 2013



Note: Here the "forest" has very few trees or little grass. Not
like the east of the country.
Also out here in the West, environmental "studies" are primary
"tools" to prevent things like roads, power lines, power plants,
mining, logging, ranching,industry, etc. etc.
There is a bit of a problem with the influx of "city people" into
border law enforcement, but most of them seem to be able to learn how
to do things the "country" way. Can't speak to management.

BP roads draw a Congressional bill and much criticism
Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013 8:03 am
By Curt Prendergast
Nogales International | 0 comments


Environmental groups are up in arms about new roads being built for
Border Patrol agents and a local Congressman is taking the fight to
Washington, D.C.
The Sierra Club recently released a video last week, titled "Too Many
Tracks," documenting the ecological damage caused by thousands of
Border Patrol vehicles traversing Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife
Refuge and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), whose district includes
Nogales, introduced the Border Security and Responsibility Act on
Feb. 6 to the House of Representatives.
The bill would create a "border protection strategy" that would
include environmental impacts in border security plans.
Locally, the U.S. military is in the final stages of building a
stretch of road for Border Patrol along the international boundary
west of Nogales in the Coronado National Forest, in a section of the
forest designated Zone 20.
"In our opinion, it's not being built up to snuff," said Dan Millis,
of Sierra Club's Borderlands Campaign in Tucson. "It's got culverts
that are too small, we feel like it's going to get washed out. We
feel like it's going to cause a lot of damage to the surrounding
"It's not going to be a good deal, kind of like the wall itself,
which was built without regard to environmental protection and causes
all sorts of problems with habitat and flooding," Millis said.
The Sierra Club was one of 11 organizations that signed a letter to
President Obama in February 2012 protesting the construction of roads
in the borderlands. In the letter, the organizations ask the
president to "instruct your employees to cease this needless and
harmful overreach of executive power."
"Not only is it an issue in terms of the environmental impact, but
oftentimes we see these new roads not serving the purpose that
they're supposed to serve," Millis said, adding "sometimes they make
areas that were previously inaccessible for drug-runners more
accessible. So there are all sorts of collateral damage that can be
done here."
Grijalva's office did not respond to a request for comment for this
story, but the recently introduced bill would require border security
agencies to hold off on building infrastructure until Congress
reviewed the project's border protection strategy that would include,
among other things, potential impacts on water, wildlife, and
While environmental groups decry the ecological damage caused by the
road, both the Border Patrol and the Coronado National Forest say the
roads are necessary and are being built in the most environmentally
friendly way possible.
The Zone 20 road allows Border Patrol agents to "get to places we've
not been able to get before," said Shawn Palmer, field operations
supervisor for Border Patrol.
The road also aids agents after they catch an illegal border-crosser,
he said. "When apprehensions are made, we're not having to walk them
a mile or two to the road," he said.
In addition, if Border Patrol decides to build a border fence in the
forest, the road will facilitate that construction, he said.
As is the case with other Border Patrol roads, the construction is
coordinated by Joint Task Force North, a military unit based in El
Paso that has "been in the road construction business" since the
1990s, he said.
The Zone 20 road construction provides valuable training for the
military while also meeting border security needs, he said. "It gives
engineering units a great opportunity to get out into places like
Nogales where they've told me the land, the scenery, the terrain is
much like what they experience in Afghanistan," he said.
Palmer did not know the exact length of the Zone 20 road, but it
extends for several miles and is linked to a network of roads that
crisscross the forest, many of which run on a north-south axis,
rather than along the international border.
The north-south roads serve as access roads for workers and
machinery, Coronado National Forest Nogales District ranger James
Copeland said, and many of them may not survive in the long-term.
"It's something that we will have to negotiate with (Border Patrol)
in the future, about which ones we'll go ahead and obliterate from
the system," he said.
Border Patrol does not have plans to build more roads in the forest
any time soon, Palmer said. "Usually, we plan these roads two to five
years out and we haven't got anything locked in in the future in this
area," he said.
The roads are being built in conjunction with the National Forest
Service and "they've all been environmentally cleared," he said.
That environmental clearance is made possible by a waiver that allows
border security agencies to bypass restrictions included in the
National Environmental Policy Act and other laws, Millis said.
That waiver, granted in 2008 by the Secretary of Homeland Security,
is based in provisions of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and
Immigrant Responsibility Act, Copeland said.
"The waiver discusses the Zone 20 road system in fairly broad terms,"
Copeland said, including the discretion to build barriers, towers,
cameras, detection equipment, and roads. "There is no explicit limit
on the distance from the international border for the effectiveness
of that waiver," he said.
National Forest Service legal counsel advised the Coronado National
Forest rangers to defer to the Department of Homeland Security's
interpretation of the waiver, Copeland said.
The road construction has actually benefited the forest in several
ways, he said, noting that many of the forest's roads were built in
washes, which make them impassable at certain times of the year. The
crews building the Border Patrol roads are relocating the roads to
better locations that allow for year-round travel, he said.
In addition, the increased presence of Border Patrol agents in the
area has helped clean up the forest, he said.
"The illegal traffic on the National Forest has a lot of impact,"
Copeland said. "By securing the border a little better, that helps us
to manage the National Forest better," he said, adding "we don't have
as much environmental damage associated with tons and tons of
discarded material in our drainages."

No comments:

Post a Comment