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NEWS: Security trumps environment in DHS border security bill

USA Today reports on a “a controversial bill” that would “give the Department of Homeland Security sweeping authority over federal lands within 100 miles” of the United States international and maritime borders. “The proposed National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act would let the agency waive 36 federal environmental protection laws in the name of better border patrols on public lands.”

“The measure…waives the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Clean Air Act.”

“Supporters say it would help US Customs and Border Protection agents secure the nation’s borders. Opponents say it would give Homeland Security unchecked authority to disregard major environmental laws covering wilderness areas, national parks and wildlife refuges.”

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.'”

Earlier this week, we noted that the US Border Protection agency is considering building new fences and barriers, and increasing the use of drones and radar along the Canada-US border just as a perimeter security deal is reportedly being finalized between the Harper government and the Obama administration.

In December 2010, Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom wrote, “The latest government attempt to create a common security perimeter around North America is another bad deal for Canada. …The upshot of any perimeter deal will be to give the U.S. two borders — an outer one around North America and an inner one at the 49th parallel.”

In January of this year, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow commented that, “This security perimeter plan sounds like a whole new set of hassles at the border. It sounds like more border security, longer entry/exit lines at the Canada US border, new screening processes for anyone leaving Canada, and more security guards and border personnel.”