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NEWS: HR 1505, the ‘security trumps environment’ bill, passes House committee

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

On October 5, the US House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee voted 26-17 to approve H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. The proposed legislation 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), Glacier National Park (in Montana), Olympic National Park (Washington), Cleveland National Forest (California), and Big Bend National Park (Texas).

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.

Yesterday, the Globe and Mail reported, “A bill now gaining traction in the House of Representatives, for example, would cede control of all U.S. federal lands within 160 kilometres of the Canadian border to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including iconic areas such as the Great Lakes, Montana’s Glacier National Park, and the Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota. The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act would allow border agents to build fences and deploy more equipment and staff in these tourist havens, even though there’s no evidence of significant illegal activity.”

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.’”

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. We are currently organizing a speaking tour of Great Lakes cities in both Canada and the United States tentatively scheduled for May 2012.

An earlier campaign blog on this can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10864.