From Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ Backcountry Blog
The following is an update to a May 2012 post on pending legislation known as “The Border Bill”
Despite concerns expressed by sportsmen in videos,articles and forums, the U.S. House of Representatives this summer passed legislation sponsored by Representative Bob Bishop, R-Utah, that gives sweeping control of national forests, national parks and wildlife refuges within 100 miles of U.S. borders to the Department of Homeland Security.
A version of the “Border Bill” is now pending in the U.S. Senate. Some worry it could be passed as part of a broader package of bills during the November to December “lame duck” session.
Why should sportsmen be concerned, you ask? I wondered the same thing, only to learn that the legislation would give the Customs and Border Patrol unlimited access “to maintain and construct roads, construct a fence, use vehicles to patrol, and set up monitoring equipment” on any federally managed land, which includes forests and designated Wilderness areas favored by backcountry hunters, as well as National Parks and Wild and Scenic Rivers. The bill covers an enormous swath of ground – 100 miles south of Canada and 100 miles north of Mexico. It includes millions of acres of popular hunting and fishing areas like theBoundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas in Montana.
The final version of the Border Bill passed by the U.S. House would preclude such activities from many meaningful environmental and conservation regulations adopted in the last 100+ years, 16 in all, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act. Under the authority granted by the Border Bill, which was passed as part of a big package of legislation, public input and access to public lands would be pushed aside in the name of “national security.”
No one disputes the need to keep our borders safe. The question is, is this bill overreach? What is the crisis that demands this sweeping change in authority over such a vast area? The Department of Homeland Security couldn’t name one; the agency testified before Congress that the bill was “unnecessary.”
By voiding regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act, the border bill threatens to strip sportsmen of their right to speak-up for the fish and wildlife habitat we now enjoy. In addition, the bill would set precedent by giving a single Federal agency immunity to key environmental regulations – a policy that is bad for sportsmen, and bad for the public lands and waters upon which sportsmen depend.
Have you ever hunted or fished within 100 miles of either the border with Canada or Mexico? If so, what did you pursue?
For more information contact Tim Brass, Colorado Coordinator, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers at timothy.brass [at] gmail [dot] com.