with the SOUTHWEST
ALLIANCE TO RESIST MILITARIZATION (SWARM)
News Release: Thursday, June 28, 2001
U.S. BORDER PATROL "PANIC-TOWER"
PLAN THREATENS DESERT WILDLIFE AND WILDERNESS ON CABEZA PRIETA NATIONAL
WILDLIFE REFUGE & BARRY M. GOLDWATER RANGE.
RECOGNIZE IT AS PLOY IN
LARGER BORDER MILITARIZATION
Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist, CBD 520.623.5252 x 306, 520.906.2159
Chris Ford, SWARM 520.624.8321
Bruce Eilerts, Associate Director & Wildlife Biologist, CBD 602.421.1270
SONORAN DESERT, AZ Environmental and human-rights activists recently
learned of a U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) plan to build at least six environmentally
damaging "panic-towers" on critical public lands habitat in
W. Pima County and E. Yuma County (map available upon request). According
to information obtained this week by the Center for Biological Diversity
(CBD), these towers would be at least 30 feet tall with a bright strobe
light flashing day & night and noise making flag at the top. Reportedly,
the towers' main purpose would be a "panic button" which would
summon USBP when pressed. However, it is also likely that USBP would eventually
install more surveillance equipment on the towers.
CBD and SWARM see
the USBP plans to build "panic-towers" on the Cabeza Prieta
National Wildlife Refuge and Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR) as a ploy
to give the USBP greater access to this pristine and ecologically sensitive
area. They also recognize the predictable build-up by USBP and Joint Task
Force 6 on the Cabeza and BMGR as part of a larger strategy of militarizing
the US-Mexico border region. This strategy has nearly quadrupled the number
of USBP agents along the US-Mexico border and has lead to hundreds of
migrant deaths and massive ecological damage.
"This tower plan by the Border Patrol is clearly not about saving
lives, but about opening up pristine desert for patrols." said Chris
Ford of SWARM. "If the Border Patrol truly wanted to save lives,
they would stop their deadly policy of pushing people out into these remote
and dangerous places."
Many of the tower
sites are not currently accessible by road and would require more road
building, further fragmenting fragile habitat and damaging the wilderness
character of the area. At least one of the towers is proposed to be built
within congressionally designated wilderness within the Cabeza Prieta
NWF directly adjacent to a critical Sonoran Pronghorn fawning site in
the San Cristobal Valley, near the Pima/Yuma county line.
"It is likely
these towers would hurt the pronghorn, which is already near extinction."
said Daniel Patterson, CBD's Desert Ecologist. "Imperiled wildlife
such as the Lesser long-nosed bat may be harmed by the strobe lights and
young desert tortoises would be killed more by raptors and ravens using
the unnaturally high towers as perch sites."
The endangered Sonoran
Pronghorn is highly threatened by human encroachment and development caused
stress which disrupts animal movement, foraging and reproduction.1 The
Sonoran Pronghorn is one of the most endangered mammals in the nation,
with the U.S. population currently estimated at 100 individuals or less
"The military should be aware that increased threats to the pronghorn,
such as Border Patrol towers, will likely trigger more restrictions on
military training." said Bruce Eilerts, Wildlife Biologist &
CBD's Associate Director who was Chief of the BMGR Natural & Cultural
Resources Section from 1993-99. "In the past, non-target structures
have been bombed and shot at by thrill-seeking pilots. If migrants are
near the towers and it happens again, people will be killed."
SWARM offers that
the way to save lives is to end harsh economic policies like structural
re-adjustments and trade policies like NAFTA that have impoverished the
majority of the Mexican population. Since NAFTA took effect in 1994, wages
in Mexico have dropped by 33%, and the number of people living in poverty
has risen from 27% to 51%.
*** CBD/SWARM ***