|05-11-2012, 12:33 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2001
Member # 3975
Bill to shift authority over federal land near border nears U.S. House vote
By TRISTAN SCOTT of the Missoulian
WHITEFISH – A controversial bill that aims to shift authority over federal lands within 100 miles of the U.S. border to the Department of Homeland Security could be nearing a vote on the House floor, a development that has renewed debate over the measure’s applicability in places like Montana, where it would strip dozens of environmental protections from Glacier National Park and designated wilderness areas.
The proposed legislation, called the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, or H.R. 1505, would exempt Homeland Security from compliance with 36 federal environmental protection laws in order to expedite border security, including the National Environmental Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The bill’s proponents say it is a critical step toward securing the nation’s borders and granting more control to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, who are frequently stymied by burdensome environmental regulations and uncooperative federal land managers.
Critics argue that the bill’s language is ambiguous and its intent unnecessary and overreaching. They say it would invite Homeland Security to disregard key environmental laws on cherished public lands, wilderness areas, national parks and wildlife refuges.
In Montana, the law would affect a 100-mile corridor that comprises nearly one-third of the state, including Glacier National Park and portions of the Kootenai and Flathead national forests. It would also apply to five of Montana’s Indian reservations, as well as the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and broad swaths of Bureau of Land Management lands.
U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., is one of 59 legislators who have co-sponsored the measure, which was introduced in April 2011 by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.
On Friday, one year after attaching his name to the bill, Rehberg defended the legislation on a statewide radio talk show.
The bill is not a federal “land-grab” as some critics have asserted, he said, but a means to improve coordination between agencies that are charged with disparate missions, and that too often clash in a manner that compromises national security.
“We have a food fight going on between federal agencies,” he said, adding that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are not cooperating with the U.S. Border Patrol, and calling the situation a “bureaucratic turf war.”
“People of America need to know that this lack of cooperation exists,” he continued. “They are hiding under environmental laws to keep our law enforcement agencies from stopping drug traffickers or human traffickers.”
Former superintendents and employees at Glacier National Park and the district ranger for the Hungry Horse-Glacier View District of the Flathead National Forest, both of which hug the U.S.-Canadian border, say they have found a great deal of ongoing cooperation between their staffs and the Border Patrol.
“I question what the bill actually seeks to fix, and what level of bureaucracy it is inviting,” said Mick Holm, who retired as superintendent of Glacier National Park in 2008. “When I was superintendent, we had a very good working relationship with the other agencies, be it the Forest Service or Border Patrol or our Canadian counterparts. Anytime there was a difference of opinion we were able to seek common ground and resolve it with discussions at the local level.”
Jimmy DeHerrera, district ranger in the Hungry Horse-Glacier View District of the Flathead National Forest for the past 14 years, echoed Holm on the subject of interagency cooperation.
“I would highlight that locally, working with the Whitefish office of the Border Patrol, we have a very good cooperative working relationship,” DeHerrera said. “We all respect each other’s missions and, even though we have separate missions, we do whatever it takes to accommodate the needs of Border Patrol agents in a way that still accomplishes our resource management objective.”
A 2009 memorandum of understanding signed between officials from the Interior and Homeland Security departments also addresses Border Patrol access to public lands and comports with the opinions of local land managers who praised interagency collaboration.
The cooperation was also affirmed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials who testified against the bill before Congress last July, saying the agency “enjoys a close working relationship with the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture that allows us to fulfill our border enforcement responsibilities while respecting and enhancing the environment.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified this March that the bill is “unnecessary, and it’s bad policy.”
The bill would “prohibit the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from taking action on public lands which impede border security on such lands.”
And without having to adhere to the National Environmental Protections Act, or the Wilderness Act, or the Endangered Species Act, or any number of other measures, the Border Patrol would not have to answer to the National Park Service before conducting six activities: building fences; cutting new roads to access federal lands (or opening existing roads to patrol vehicles and ATVs that are currently closed to motorized use); installation of surveillance equipment and sensors; use of aircraft; and deployment of “temporary tactical infrastructure, including forward operating bases.”
Jed Link, communications director for Rehberg, emphasized that land managers maintain control of the federal parcels and H.R. 1505 does not give Border Patrol agents unchecked power. It merely allows them to gain “operational control on a porous border where, in Montana, one out of every two miles crosses federal lands.”
“It does not allow them to do whatever they want, whenever they want and however they want. It allows them to gain operational control of a porous border,” Link said. “Nobody wants to hurt the environment or undermine wilderness. But we have a security problem that we know exists, and the solution is to get rid of this bureaucratic turf war.”
In a telephone interview Friday, Congressman Bishop said that critics of the bill are misguided in their strictures and misinformed about the measure’s intent. The memorandum of understanding between agencies is “inadequate,” he said.
“Right now, environmental laws and policies prohibit the Border Patrol from doing their job on federal lands, and that has become the avenue of choice for criminals and illegal immigrants,” he said.
“People are saying we are going to crisscross the land with new roads and asphalt, but most of the concern applies to existing roads that were gated and where Border Patrol agents are being restricted access,” Bishop continued. “The notion that Homeland Security is going to be building new roads and infrastructure is not based in reality.”
The bill is endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) which represents 17,000 Border Patrol Agents and the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBO).
Zack Taylor, vice chairman of NAFBO and a former Border Patrol agent in Arizona, said it is a mistake to allow environmental protection laws to supplant measures aimed at tightening national security and improving public safety.
“The Border Patrol is being shut out of the national forest land. It’s that simple,” he said.
Taylor said drug smuggling and human trafficking is a much larger problem along the southern border, but that smugglers are already established in areas along the Yaak and Kootenai river valleys.
“Those are ideal places for smugglers,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has vigorously opposed H.R. 1505, likening it to the Patriot Act and REAL ID in its unprecedented extension of powers to the federal government.
“Count me among the Montanans who have serious problems with this bill. But like the Patriot Act and REAL ID, this one can’t be fixed,” Tester said. “It needs to be scrapped altogether because no matter how you spin it, it gives the Department of Homeland Security total control over the land we all use.”
Doug Morris of Victor is a retired National Park Service employee who was superintendent at Saguaro National Park in Arizona and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. He said the argument that a lack of cooperation exists between the Park Service and Border Patrol is “horribly untrue.”
“The agencies have all agreed to cooperate and support one another’s goals,” he said. “Whatever conflicts once existed between these agencies are gone, so there is no need to move forward with this legislation that will have real consequences to almost a third of the acreage of National Park Service lands. I don’t think that is understood by very many people.”
Steve Gniadek, a biologist who worked at Glacier National Park for 32 years, has staunchly opposed the bill because he says it would have deleterious effects on elk habitat, and access to federal lands has never been a problem.
“The bill assumes that there is this resistance and that federal land managers are preventing border patrol agents from doing their job. I just don’t see any evidence of this in Montana,” he said.
Missoula Flathead Valley Bureau reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 730-1067 or at email@example.com.
|09-23-2012, 07:18 AM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Feb 2011
Member # 182131
Location: Moyie Springs Id.
News on this?
“Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.”
― John Adams
|09-23-2012, 09:18 AM||#4 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2001
Member # 3975
Official: To prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from taking action on public lands which impede border security on such lands, and for other purposes. as introduced.
Short: National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act as introduced.
Short: National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act as reported to house.
Apr 13th - Referred to House Homeland Security
Apr 13th - Referred to House Agriculture
Apr 13th - Referred to House Natural Resources
Apr 13th - Referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, and in addition to the Committees on Agriculture, and Homeland Security, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
Apr 13th - Introduced in House
Apr 18th - Referred to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
May 4th - Referred to the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
May 11th - Referred to the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry.
Jul 8th - Subcommittee Hearings Held.
Oct 5th - Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 26 - 17.
Specific Organizations Supporting H.R.1505:
◦National Cattlemen's Beef Association
◦Public Lands Council
◦National Association of Police Organizations
◦United Four-Wheel Drive Associations
◦Motorcycle Industry Council
◦National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers
◦National Border Patrol Council
◦Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
◦Off-Road Business Association
◦Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association
◦Specialty Equipment Market Association
◦Specialty Vehicle Institute of America
◦American Sheep Industry Association
◦Arizona Cattle Growers Association
◦Association of National Grasslands
◦California Cattlemen's Association
◦Federation for American Immigration Reform
◦Montana Association of State Grazing Districts
◦Montana Stockgrowers Association
◦Montana Wool Growers Association
◦North Dakota Stockmen's Association
◦Save the Trails
◦Stewards of the Sequoia
Interests that oppose this bill:
◦Printing and publishing (printed & online)
◦Energy, Natural Resources and Environment
◦Hunting & wildlife
◦General business associations
◦Chambers of commerce
◦Federal employees unions
◦Health & welfare policy
◦Elderly issues/Social Security
◦Civil servant/public employee
◦Churches, clergy & religious organizations
◦Third-Party Party Committees
Specific Organizations Opposing H.R.1505:
◦Alpine Lakes Protection Society
◦Center for Biological Diversity
◦Sky Island Alliance
◦Defenders of Wildlife
◦The Wilderness Society
◦New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
◦Arizona Wilderness Coalition
◦Grand Canyon Trust
◦Party for Socialism and Liberation
◦PEW Charitable Trusts
◦El Sendero-Backcountry Ski and Snowshoe Club
◦Friends of Wild Sky
◦Gifford Pinchot Task Force
◦North Cascades Conservation Council
◦Okanogan Highlands Alliance
◦Olympic Forest Coalition
◦Olympic Park Associates
◦Pacific Crest Trail Association
◦Washington Trails Association
◦National Tribal Environmental Council
◦League of Conservation Voters
◦Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
◦National Latino Coalition on Climate Change
◦American Civil Liberties Union
◦National Council of La Raza
◦Texas Border Coalition
◦United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce
◦National Hispanic Environmental Council
◦League of United Latin American Citizens
◦National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives
◦National Association of Hispanic Publications
◦Hispanic National Bar Association
◦Natural Resources Defense Council
◦Escondido Human Rights Committee
◦San Diego Foundation for Change
◦National Parks Conservation Association
◦U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute
◦SER- Jobs for Progress National
◦Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
◦National Hispanic Leadership Agenda
◦National Hispanic Medical Association
◦National Association of Latin American and Caribbean Communities
◦National Institute for Latino Policy
◦Equality Alliance of San Diego County
◦Southern Border Communities Coalition
◦National Conference of Puerto Rican Women
◦Northern Alaska Environmental Center
◦Cochise County Chapter Progressive Democrats of America
◦Green Valley Samaritans
◦National Hispanic Coalition on Aging
◦Alaska Wilderness League
◦Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project
◦No More Deaths
◦Hispanic Access Foundation
◦Western Environmental Law Center
◦Citizens for Border Solutions
◦School Sisters of Notre Dame, Douglas, AZ
◦Citizens for a Safe and Secure Border
◦Klamath Forest Alliance
◦Latino and Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley
◦Montana Public Lands Council
◦Coastal States Organization
◦Montana Hunters & Anglers Action
◦Coalition of National Park Service Retirees
HR 1505 Passes; Tribal Borders and Treaties Await Senate
On Tuesday, June 19, 2012 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a broad land use bill called H.R. 2578 — “To amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act related to a segment of the Lower Merced River in California, and for other purposes,” also known as the Conservation and Economic Growth Act — in a 232-188 vote. And this legislation will affect Indian country; included in the 14-bill package on the House Floor was H.R. 1505, or the controversial National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act.
Authored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and featuring 59 cosponsors from across the country, H.R. 1505 would give the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the authority to take control of “all land under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture within 100 miles of the international land borders of the United States.”
“Securing our nation’s borders must be among our highest priorities,” said Rep. Bishop, who also serves as House National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee chairman. “Right now, public lands inaccessible to the United States Border Patrol offer nearly unfettered safe harbor for criminal drug and human smugglers entering our country illegally. The Border Patrol must have improved access in order to deter and apprehend those using our federal lands as trafficking routes.
“The Border Patrol’s inability to routinely access the entire border region leaves us not only vulnerable to the trafficking of drugs but also (to) potential terrorists and others who wish to harm our country,” he added. “With the passage of this legislation, the Border Patrol will finally have the access necessary to help us achieve a truly secure border — a sovereign nation should have nothing less.”
To address concerns that the bill would give the federal government a broad new authority, the bill was amended in committee last fall to remove language that included maritime borders, add language to protect existing legal uses for recreational and economic activities, add a five-year sunset date to evaluate if the legislation should be renewed, and strictly limit the activities (six) for which the bill could be used. In fact, the committee changed all references to “The Secretary of Homeland Security” to “U.S. Customs and Border Protection” to emphasize that authority would be limited to border security operations and personnel.
Then, on the House Floor, Rep. Bishop introduced an amendment that clarified that federal land management agencies may not prohibit border patrol efforts to “prevent all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband through the international land borders of the United States.”
The amendment also narrowed the list of existing laws that may be waived by the U.S. Border Patrol from 36 to 16, prohibited any additional access to private property, confirmed that the Border Patrol will not reduce public access to federal land — for such uses as hunting, fishing and off-highway vehicle operation — and added a provision to “ensure and protect tribal sovereignty, stating that nothing in the bill may supersede, replace, negate, or diminish treaties or agreements with Indian tribes.”
However, according to Oliver “OJ” Semans, executive director of Four Directions, a nonpartisan get-out-the-native-vote organization based on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation, the problem for Indian country is that the tribes whose lands lie within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders were never part of the legislative process — and the Department of Homeland Security, through U.S. Customs and Border Protection, would have jurisdiction for land use within the scope of those six authorized activities.
“The (author and) sponsors of H.R. 1505 want to give the U.S. Department of Homeland Security unprecedented power to build roads, fences, buildings or even watchtowers on public land administered by the departments of Interior and Agriculture,” Semans said. “This bill directly affects tribes, and they were never even consulted and/or asked to attend hearings on the bills.”
The text of the amended legislation reads, “The Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture shall not impede, prohibit or restrict activities of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on land under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to achieve operational control over the international land borders of the United States.” The six authorized activities include construction and maintenance of roads; construction and maintenance of fences; vehicle patrols; installation, maintenance and operation of surveillance equipment and sensors; use of aircraft; and deployment of temporary tactical infrastructure, including forward operating bases.
And while the legislation’s list of waived acts has been reduced from 36 to 16, restoring the Archaeological Resources Preservation Act of 1979, two critical laws are still able to be suspended: the National Historic Preservation Act and the Act of June 8, 1906 (also known as the Antiquities Act of 1906), which protect sites considered sacred to Native people.
“The real killer in the waivers is the Antiquities Act of 1906, which restricts the use of particular public land owned by the federal government (and) is used to protect tribal sacred sites,” Semans said. “(H.R. 1505) is a dangerous law for Indian sacred sites. I would love to see Congress include Mt. Rushmore in this legislation; at least then non-Indians would understand the unfairness of the bill.
“Removing the Archaeological Resources Protection Act from the waivers gives the appearance of addressing tribal concerns, but in fact, it makes the law nonexistent,” he continued. “The Secretary and government agency with the power to enforce the law no longer can, because Congress has restricted them from doing so.”
Affected tribes near the U.S.-Canada border include the Bay Mills Indian Community (Michigan), Blackfeet Tribe (Montana), Grand Portage Band of Chippewa (Minnesota), Red Lake Band of Chippewa (Minnesota), Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribe (Michigan), St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (New York), Aroostook Band of Micmac (Maine), Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Wisconsin), Boise Forte Band of Chippewa (Minnesota), Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Washington), Fort Belknap Indian Community (Montana), Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes (Montana), Houlton Band of Maliseet (Maine), Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (Washington), Kalispel Tribe (Washington), Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (Michigan), Kootenai Tribe (Idaho), Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (Washington), Lummi Nation (Washington), Makah Tribe (Washington), Nooksack Tribe (Washington), Passamaquoddy Tribe (Maine), Penobscot Nation (Maine), Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Wisconsin), Seneca Nation (New York), Swinomish Tribe (Washington), Tonawanda Seneca Tribe (New York), Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa (North Dakota), Tuscarora Nation (New York) and the Upper Skagit Tribe (Washington).
H.R. 1505 also affects a variety of tribes with land near the U.S.-Mexico border, including the Cocopah Tribe (Arizona), Kickapoo Tribe (Texas), Mescalero Apache Tribe (New Mexico), Pascua Yaqui Tribe (Arizona), Tohono O’odham Nation (Arizona) and the Quechuan Tribe (Arizona).
One of H.R. 1505’s most vocal opponents is Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). His state is home to several affected tribes, and he has expressed deep concern for the lack of consultation with tribes — and lack of public input altogether.
“H.R. 1505 contains specific language that allows one federal department ‘immediate’ and total control over public lands in Montana,” said Aaron Murphy, communications director at Montanans for Tester. “Jon is concerned by this irresponsible proposal because it undermines… tribal sovereignty with a one-size-fits-all big government strategy, allowing a handful of federal agents to do whatever they want with no public input and no public accountability. Those who support this bill failed to consult with tribes — or any Montanans for that matter. Any decisions that deal with public land should be made with public input.”
He added that Sen. Tester also is very concerned about the waiving of existing laws, which also include the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, as well as those protections for antiquities and historic sites.
Murphy noted that, as written, the Department of Homeland Security — again, through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection — would not have to seek permission to do whatever is necessary to achieve “operational control” on any land administered by the Department of Agriculture or the Department of the Interior.
“There is no language that exempts lands administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” he observed. “The House (committee) even rejected an amendment to specifically exempt tribal land from H.R. 1505. Jon believes we can protect our nation without trampling tribal rights.”
Sen. Tester isn’t the only one to express concern. According to testimony from the House hearing on H.R. 1505, the lead lawyer for the Department of the Interior under President Clinton also expressed serious concerns about the bill’s effects on tribal sovereignty.
What about the provision in Rep. Bishop’s amendment? Semans didn’t give it much weight, noting that the wording of the amendment does not exempt tribal land.
“It’s the standard double talk to say, see, we honor our treaties… all the while changing the treaties through legislation,” he commented. “This same language was used in the PACT Act and is currently in the STOP Act, and tribes end up spending millions in litigation.”
A fellow Montana legislator, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), is a co-sponsor of the bill and co-chair of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus. He proposed many of the changes that were incorporated into the current version of H.R. 1505, and he said the bill is a good one for Montana and the United States.
“Border security is national security, and in Montana that means safety for our families and communities,” Rep. Rehberg commented. “It’s time to put an end to the dangerous turf war where federal land managers hide behind environmental laws in order to prevent border patrol agents from doing their jobs on federal land.”
He also noted that the legislation is much more targeted than what he called “the sweeping measure” that unanimously passed the U.S. Senate in 2009.
“We built in protections for grazing rights and more narrowly focused the intent of the law on efforts to secure the border,” he explained. “We also added a sunset provision so the law can be reviewed by Congress to make sure it’s working as intended. This was a good bill, and now it’s even better.”
Is there a dangerous “turf war” between federal agencies? The Department of Homeland Security already has a memorandum of understanding with the departments of Interior and Agriculture that allows the departments to work together in a situation that might require DHS to pursue suspects or investigations on public land. And, according to a prominent Washington D.C. lobbyist who represents tribes across the country, there has been “no hue and cry” from the Border Patrol to take additional measures to guarantee access.
Tom Rodgers is president of Alexandria, Virginia-based Carlyle Consulting, and he is perhaps best known as the whistle-blower in the Jack Abramoff scandal. He also is a member of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation, and he said he questions the need for H.R. 1505 in the first place.
“I’ve seen the GAO report, and I’ve yet to see substantive arguments,” he commented. “I’m not convinced, and I’ve never heard of any tribe denying access to its land. I call this a weapon of mass distraction.”
Rodgers said he also finds it ironic that so many advocates of smaller government are behind this particular bill.
“There are so few resources, and there are so many other needs,” he said. “Without a demonstrable need, why give the Department of Homeland Security more authority? Why are we spending time and resources on this? It doesn’t make sense.”
Now that the House has approved it, however, H.R. 1505 will move on to the U.S. Senate.
“It’s unfortunate that certain members of the House refuse to acknowledge that Indian tribes are sovereign nations, designated so by treaties their ancestors signed,” Semans said. “They dishonor those before them in their passing of H.R. 2578 (and H.R. 1505).
“But the House’s action is far from over,” he emphasized. “Tribal leaders will meet with senators, as our treaties dictate, in nation-to-nation meetings to voice their concerns over Section 1401 of H.R. 2578.”
Members of affected tribes, and members of the general public who feel strongly about this issue, are encouraged to contact their senators to share their views.
Last edited by LYIN' KING; 09-28-2012 at 08:19 AM. Reason: formatting