APRIL 15, 2010
Putting environmental preservation ahead of national security, the Interior Department prevents Border Patrol agents from securing heavily transited federal wildlife refuges along the Mexican border, including the one used by an illegal immigrant who recently murdered an
The Mexican national entered the U.S. through the 2,300-acre San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge and subsequently escaped through it after gunning down rancher Robert Krentz a few weeks ago. For years, Border Patrol agents have been prohibited by the Interior Department and the U.S. Forest Service from actively patrolling such areas because it threatens natural resources.
Motorized vehicles, road construction and the installation of surveillance structures required to adequately secure the vast areas are forbidden because it could endanger the environment and its wildlife. In the meantime, Mexican drug cartels and human smugglers regularly use the sprawling, unmanned and federally protected land to enter the U.S.
The abhorrent security gap has become the focus of federal lawmakers who plan to make changes in the wake of the
As a result of DOI’s actions these federal lands have become an unpatrolled highway that’s open to criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers and terrorists who endanger American lives and cause severe environmental damage, the lawmakers say.
Adding insult to injury, Interior officials charge Homeland Security millions of dollars for conducting preapproved Border Patrol operations on its land. Since 2007, Homeland Security has paid DOI more than $9 million to mitigate the “environmental damage” of protecting the border, according to a fact sheet provided by the Natural Resources Committee Republicans.
This certainly presents a problem since the Interior Department is the primary management agency for nearly half of the land along the U.S.-Mexican border and around 10% of the Canadian border. Nearly all of the land is sparsely populated with easy access into the U.S. from Mexico. Terrorist could easily smuggle nuclear, chemical or biological weapons through these routes, according to a government threat assessment for public lands.
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