Border Security Intrudes on Boundary Waters

Carving the border wall's path through Otay Mountain Wilderness Area (Photo by Roy Toft - International League of Conservation Photographers - Lighthawk)
Carving the border wall's path through Otay Mountain Wilderness Area (Photo by Roy Toft - International League of Conservation Photographers - Lighthawk).

Campers deep in northern wildernesses are being harassed by U.S. Border Patrol helicopters, and the problem could get worse if new policies are implemented. This conflict between solitude and security is outlined in a new report (PDF) from national advocacy group Wilderness Watch, and described in a Star Tribune commentary by Wilderness Watch’s Kevin Proescholdt and George Nickas.

A bill which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 but failed to get through the Senate would have allowed border security agencies to essentially ignore environmental laws along the U.S.-Canada border, making way for activities including roads, walls, security towers, and intensive patrols.

Even though that legislation failed, Proescholdt and Nickas say policies being developed by the Department of Homeland Security would permit much of the same kinds of activity, without regard for the Wilderness Act and other landmark laws.

The proposal would seek to manage the northern border much like America’s southern border, where wilderness and other protected lands are being affected by border security. Along the Otay Mountain Wilderness east of San Diego, the Border Patrol constructed a 3.6-mile stretch of 18-foot border wall. Wilderness Watch reports that wall construction included “building access roads inside the Wilderness, denuding rugged hillsides, and drilling, blasting, and excavating 530,000 cubic yards of rock, some within the Wilderness, to facilitate constructing of the wall.”

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