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For Immediate Release, September 2, 2011

Contacts: Cyndi Tuell, (520) 623-5262 x 308

Border Patrol Plan to Triple Base Size on Arizona-Mexico Border Puts Endangered Wildlife,
Fragile Lands at Risk

TUCSON, Ariz.The Center for Biological Diversity today criticized a new environmental analysis by the Department of Homeland Security that fails to adequately assess the effects of its border-security and enforcement activities along the U.S.-Mexico border, including tripling the size of its base in the desert. In comments submitted to the Department, the group called on Homeland Security to produce a thorough, realistic analysis of the impacts of its activities on the fragile and diverse landscapes of the border region, home to a range of threatened and endangered species.

“In its slipshod analysis of the impacts of tripling the size of its forward operating base near Organ Pipe National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Homeland Security seems to condone ongoing damage to these precious public lands and their wildlife,” said the Center’s Cyndi Tuell. “For imperiled species like Sonoran pronghorns, this lip-service study is a death knell.”

Organ Pipe and Cabeza Prieta lie adjacent to each other along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and have been significantly hurt by off-road vehicle use in recent years — much of the damage has been the result of Border Patrol vehicles riding roughshod over wilderness areas.

“For an agency devoted to securing the border, the Border Patrol does an awful lot of off-road driving 15 to 20 miles north of the border, through extremely sensitive habitat for a range of species,” said Tuell. “Sonoran pronghorn are especially vulnerable to this kind of disruption, which can stop them from raising their fawns or getting enough to eat.”

Surveys and satellite data show that nearly 8,000 miles — and some estimate up to 20,000 miles — of illegal, “wildcat” roads now exist on the Cabeza Prieta, some of which were created by illegal cross-border vehicle activity, but an increasing percentage of which have resulted from misguided enforcement strategies.

“A memo of understanding between Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior was signed to create protocols for border-security activities on our precious public lands,” said Tuell. “In many places it works well, but on Organ Pipe and Cabeza Prieta, Homeland Security routinely ignores it.”

“The Department of Homeland Security should focus its enforcement efforts closer to the border to prevent damage to America’s public lands before it encroaches so far into the United States,” said Tuell. “And it needs to work more closely with land managers on the ground in these areas to reduce the damage caused by their activities.”

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