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NEWS: HR 1505 proceeds to the US Senate

Postmedia News reports, “Environmentalists are decrying what they call a ‘conservation low point’ for North America after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would suspend wildlife- and ecosystem-protection laws within 160 kilometres of the U.S.-Canada border in the name of homeland security. Opponents say the law — championed by Republican lawmakers but deemed unnecessary by the Department of Homeland Security itself — could wreak havoc on sensitive borderlands habitat by allowing U.S. government agencies to build roads and erect fences throughout a vast network of protected areas key to cross-boundary mammal migration and other natural processes. …The bill, called House Resolution 1505, was one of several controversial components of an omnibus legislative package — H.R. 2578 — that passed by a vote of 232 to 188 on Wednesday. The legislation now heads to the U.S. Senate for further debate.”

“But a coalition of environmental organizations (including Washington Wild and the National Parks Conservation Association), along with Latin American advocacy groups and the Democratic members of the federal natural resources committee, denounced the bills as an attack on U.S. conservation motivated more by anti-immigration sentiment and a desire to diminish the integrity of public lands than by concerns about national security. The Democratic lawmakers said the Republican-backed bills ‘advance their anti-immigration and anti-environmental policies’ and will ‘expand the scope of the Department of Homeland Security’s authority in a 100-mile zone on the two U.S. land borders, curtailing American rights, liberties, and bedrock environmental protections.'” The Sierra Club has also been a vocal opponent of HR 1505.

The Council of Canadians has highlighted that HR 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, would waive 36 environmental and other laws for US Customs and Border Patrol activities on public lands within 100 miles of US borders. The area covered by this legislation includes the Great Lakes, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (on Lake Superior), Olympic National Park (in Washington), Cleveland National Forest (California), Big Bend National Park (Texas), and, as Nicol mentions, Glacier National Park (Montana). Laws that would be waived include – the Safe Drinking Water Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Solid Waste Disposable Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Fish and Wildlife Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, Wilderness Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Park Service Organic Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Farmland Protection Policy Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The Council of Canadians is particularly concerned about the impact this legislation would have on the Great Lakes. We are calling for the Great Lakes to be recognized as a lived commons, public trust, and protected bio-region and we see HR 1505 as contrary to that vision. In fact, USA Today has reported, “Zack Taylor, vice chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, said the core principles of border security are national security and public safety. He said no other laws — including environmental protection — should supersede those principles. ‘What has happened is the importance on the environment has come to rule everything else,’ Taylor said in an interview . ‘In our view, the people are more important than the porcupine or the wolverine or the wolf or the grizzly bear.'”

Previous campaign blogs on HR 1505 from September and October 2011 can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=11597, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=11043, and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10864. The Postmedia News article is at http://www.canada.com/travel/Border+security+bill+threatens+wildlife+habitat+Critics/6820757/story.html.