Environment Magazine

New Video Shows Arizona Wilderness Areas Destroyed by Border Patrol Vehicles / Nuevo Video Muestra Áreas Silvestres Destrozadas Por Vehículos De La Patrulla Fronteriza

Posted on the 22 February 2013 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal

(Español abajo)

Center for Biological Diversity

TUCSON, Ariz.— Conservation groups today released a video depicting off-road vehicle damage caused by Border Patrol operations in designated wilderness areas of Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. The three-minute film published by Sierra Club, titled Too Many Tracks, shows ruts, tracks and new roads slicing through once-pristine wilderness areas where motorized vehicle travel is prohibited by law.

“These roads and vehicle tracks cause tremendous damage to some of America’s wildest public lands,” said Cyndi Tuell of the Center for Biological Diversity, who is featured in, and helps narrate, the film. “These are beautiful, fragile desert ecosystems that will take decades or even centuries to recover.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 published a report linking off-road vehicle damage in the area to Border Patrol operations. The report inventoried nearly 8,000 miles of vehicle tracks and roads in the refuge. Construction of a Border Patrol base in 2003 and a barrier along the length of the wildlife refuge’s Mexican border caused cross-border vehicle traffic to plummet. But off-road vehicle damage worsened; the report attributes “the greater proportion” of it to Border Patrol operations.

Government agencies that manage border wilderness areas signed a multi-agency agreement in 2006 that provides for cooperation on border security and environmental protection. A proposal last year by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would allow the Border Patrol to ignore that agreement. Another proposal, by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), would waive 16 environmental laws on federal lands within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders. That proposal passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year but is not expected to gain approval from the Senate or president.

“Better training for Border Patrol agents and more compliance with simple rules and protocols would help protect these fragile border lands,” said Dan Millis of Sierra Club Borderlands in Tucson. “We could make some real progress.”

Said Sandy Bahr, director of Arizona’s Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club: “These areas are designated as roadless wilderness to protect fragile wildlife and endangered species. Border security is important, and we can achieve it without destroying the environment.”

Watch the video now at http://vimeo.com/60022283.

Download the 2011 report at http://cl.ly/2b1r0y1d0K1o.

Tell Congress: Don’t Sacrifice the Border! at ow.ly/hTb47.

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