On Wednesday night, the U.S. House passed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Homeland Security Appropriations bill barring the use of border security funds for environmental projects along the border. Since 2007, the Department of Homeland Security has used over $9 million in border security dollars to pay for environmental projects along the southern border, which is surrounded by 20.7 million acres of federal public land.
The Border Patrol, which can traverse private land in pursuit of lawbreakers, is locked out of many public lands along the southern border unless it agrees to finance environmental projects, including endangered species projects. These open border spots are popular with illegal immigrants, drug traffickers, and human traffickers, who themselves inflict extensive environmental damage through their illegal and indiscriminate traffic through sensitive areas. In exchange for access to public lands, other federal agencies have asked the Border Patrol to finance:
· federal land acquisition;
· the relocation of critical infrastructure, creating more blind spots along the border;
· bat monitoring;
· the creation and feeding of a herd of Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope; and
· projects to protect the endangered Ocelot, which had not been seen in the area for twenty years.
"We the Congress, under the auspices of border security, are spending the people's hard earned money on a slush fund for land managers," Rep. Lummis said. "If you want to protect the species and ecosystems along the border, then secure the border. Rampant border crossings across wilderness do far more damage than our Border Patrol ever could. This extortion of border security dollars must stop."
The amendment strikes the $3 million allocated for Fiscal Year 2013 for environmental projects, instead devoting the money to the Air and Marine Interdiction account for the replacement of the fleet's aging aircrafts.