National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act

June 19, 2012

National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (and its latest amendment)

The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505) is framed in such a way that highlights border security as its main purpose, an issue that is of wide concern in the American public. Nevertheless there is a second dimension to this bill that should be taken into account for its potential impact on the environment.

A second dimension of the Bill H.R. 1505; the environment

This bill would suspend the enforcement of environmental laws within 100 miles of the international borders of the United States with Mexico and Canada. The laws specified are mostly related to the protection of the environment, including the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966. As the report by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) highlights, such suspension would mean that 15 national parks comprising of 21,657,399 acres, and their resources would be left unprotected. [1]

In addition, this bill would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from restricting activities on land under their respective jurisdictions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  The CNPSR report points out that the authority of the Department of Agriculture (the U.S Forest Service) and the Department of the Interior (National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management) would be surpassed by the authority of the U.S Customs and Border Protection. With regards to the amended version, the bill H.R. 1505 specifically shifts authority from the “Department of Homeland Security” to “U.S. Customs and Border Protection”. Nevertheless it is important to keep in mind that the U.S Customs and Border Protection is an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Columbans are   committed to the wellbeing of the environment and we are concerned about the power that this bill would give the U.S Customs and Border Protection. This bill would allow this agency to develop any projects whether they are related to the construction of roads or to the construction of fences disregarding the environmental protections set up by law.

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[1] See article: http://www.npsretirees.org/home/135-border