US bill borders on environmental hypocrisy
An act due to pass the House this week will expose thousands of acres of public land, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas along the US border to extreme environmental damage, according to conservationists.The Real ID Act will include sweeping language allowing the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to exempt the agency from all federal, state and local environmental laws when constructing walls, fences, roads and other barriers along US borders, affecting nearly 7,500 miles of land.
According to grassroots group Defenders of Wildlife (DoW), it will also eliminate vital protections under the endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act and other laws intended to protect wildlife - laws that every other federal agency must obey.
"By exempting the DHS from environmental laws within public lands along the Mexican and Canadian borders, some of our nation's most valuable wilderness areas are now prone to a new level of destruction as new construction projects begin," DoW president Rodger Schlickeisen warned. "Certainly we do not need to sacrifice some of our nation's most cherished wilderness areas to protect our borders."
The new bill is expected to be passed now that the Senate has agreed to include the so-called "Real ID" Act as a legislative rider to the Supplemental Appropriations Bill.
"Ensuring our national security is essential, but allowing exemptions from all environmental laws along our international borders is extreme and unnecessary," Mr Schlickeisen continued. "Already our federal laws are flexible enough to ensure that our wildlife and natural resources are protected in our efforts to improve national security."
"This bill has the potential to cause irrevocable harm by altering the existing balance of both protecting our borders and preserving our wildlife and wild lands."
By Jane Kettle