CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
Border Action Network • Center for Biological Diversity • Defenders of Wildlife • Northern Jaguar Project • Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter • Sky Island Alliance • The Wildlands Project
NEWS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 11, 2004
Contact: Jenny Neeley, Defenders of Wildlife 520-623-9653 x104
CITING HABITAT DAMAGE, CONSERVATIONISTS WANTBORDER PATROL TO RECONSIDER NEW PLANS FOR BORDER CONSTRUCTION
TUCSON -- The Border Patrol is recycling plans for staggering increases in off-road operations, lighting, fencing and road construction, despite the fact that the Bush administration itself said the plan was “not based on reality” and would have “little utility” when it was first proposed in 2002. The proposed activities are likely to have profound and lasting impacts on many of Arizona’s most threatened and endangered species, leading many local conservation groups to once again call for the plan’s rejection.
“We’re all sensitive to the need to protect our nation’s borders, but this is an ineffective plan that would pose a threat to Arizona’s borderland species and protected parks,” said Jenny Neeley, Southwest Associate of Defenders of Wildlife. “So far, U.S. border policy hasn’t stopped people from entering this country, it has merely shifted where they enter. And unfortunately, it has left severe environmental damage in its wake.”
The Border Patrol itself estimates that the proposal will involve 5800 acres directly impacted by construction activities; over 1,000 acres of wildlife habitat impacted; adverse impacts to groundwater supply in the Upper San Pedro Basin; potential damage to air quality; and unspecified threats to endangered species.
“The fences, roads, and lights will cut off and isolate the northern portion of the desert and mean a loss of diversity in plants and animals over time,” said Sandy Bahr, Conservation Outreach Director of the Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter of the Sierra Club. “These kinds of activities do not serve people or the environment and instead only further degrade and threaten a fragile area.”
Despite the devastating impacts that are likely to occur, the agency is attempting to fast-track this proposal and has given the public only 45 days to examine and provide comment on this document. Groups are asking for a 60-day extension to the comment period in order to provide the public a meaningful opportunity to participate in the process, as the law requires.
“Building a wall around our country is, and will continue to prove disastrous for human life, our natural heritage, and our pocketbook. History has taught us time and again that walls don’t work,” said Matt Skroch, Programs Director for Sky Island Alliance. “Ultimately, this is not an environmental or human rights issue it is a policy issue that our elected officials need to address now.”
The newly released plan, a 510-page Environmental Impact Statement, is merely a revision of a 2002 document, which was retracted in 2003 due to the administration’s own determination that the proposal was “not based on reality,” and would have “little utility” along the border (June 13, 2003 letter from William Fickel, US Army Corps of Engineers). Yet despite this determination, the new draft document proposes activities that are strikingly similar to those proposed two years ago.