Border bill pits security against the environment

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 14, 2011 - 1:17 AM

Opponents say bill to allow security patrols in sensitive areas such as the BWCA is solution in search of problem.

The Border Patrol would gain unprecedented authority over Minnesota's environmental landmarks on our northern border, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park, under legislation winding through Congress.

More than 30 environmental laws would be waived and the Department of Homeland Security would be allowed to build roads, erect fences, set up monitoring equipment and use vehicles to patrol public lands within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders, according to proposed legislation in the House.

Public land managers in the departments of Interior and Agriculture would not be allowed to "impede, prohibit or restrict" the patrol from controlling the border, under the Republican-sponsored legislation. Homeland Security could disregard landmark environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

The bill, authored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and a similar measure by Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz., were written primarily to address human and drug smuggling on the southern border, but both include the northern border, too. A Senate version does not.

The proposals have residents in northern Minnesota bristling, saying the area has few people crossing illegally and the Border Patrol would be wiser to engage more locals in reporting suspicious activity.

"All those illegal walleyes that are coming across? I mean, good God," quipped Ted Young, co-owner of Poplar Creek Guesthouse and Boundary Country Trekking, about 3 miles from the Canadian border on the Gunflint Trail. "We don't want fences, we don't want roads. ... Don't create problems that are not there."

Sue Prom, who with her husband owns Voyageur Canoe Outfitters about 5 miles from the Canadian border, said she's frustrated the northern border has been lumped in with problems to the south: "We don't have people swimming from Canada into the United States," she said.

But the legislation is also about potential terrorists, said Bishop spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin. "We know that there have been efforts by others wishing to do harm to our country to enter through both the north and the southern borders," she said.

Working together locally

If passed, the legislation would mark a significant change in the balance of power among the federal departments, now governed by a five-year-old agreement requiring them to collaborate for minimal environmental impact.

Leaders of federal agencies in the region say they have been working well together under that agreement, both watching the border and protecting the environment.

"We're not aware of any situations where either of us are hampering one another's missions," said Mike Ward, superintendent of Voyageurs National Park.

The departments back each other up on law enforcement missions, sometimes share equipment and often share information, officials said.

"We haven't had this need, specifically, for any legislation," said Border Patrol spokesman Stacy Forbes, based in Grand Forks, N.D.

The current agreement allows Border Patrol agents to patrol areas on foot or horseback without asking, as well as use motorized vehicles in emergency situations, Forbes said his agency typically notifies local wilderness managers, because they know the area best.

"They're the experts," Forbes said. "They would know if there's any type of movement."

Jim Sanders, forest supervisor of the 3.2 million-acre Superior National Forest, which contains the Boundary Waters, said his staff acts as "eyes and ears" for Border Patrol, too.

"It's working well," he said. "Some of their folks were helping us during the Pagami fire."

But in other areas of the country, some former Border Patrol agents complain the agreement in place now -- a memorandum of understanding -- gives an upper hand to park and wilderness land managers. It amounts to the Border Patrol making requests, one former agent said.

"It's a mother-may-I thing, and a request to get in there may take months," said Kent Lundgren, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers. "They allow hot pursuit. That's good, but that does not allow patrol, and patrol is how you find things out."

Agents like to be outside, Lundgren said, and naturally act as environmental stewards.

Subbotin, of Bishop's office, said they expect agents will use increased access only for what's essential to their mission. "To argue otherwise would be to challenge their judgment."

The bill's goals are in lockstep with the Pledge to America, a 48-page policy agenda set forth by House Republicans in 2010. That document contains language to "prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands."

Jane Danowitz, director of the U.S. public lands program at the Pew Environment Group, said Homeland Security officials didn't ask for the legislation and she thinks that's sinificant.

"We're talking about legislation that would basically, under the guise of national security, undo environmental laws that have been on the books for decades," Danowitz said. "These are popular protections."

U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., whose district includes the state's northeast border, said in a statement that international security often conflicts with other priorities such as environmental preservation. He looks forward to examining "a proper balance between international security and Minnesota's pristine wilderness."

No big plans for sector

U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Grand Forks Sector, which covers 861 miles of border in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, increased the number of agents from 28 in 1992 to 213 last year.

In fiscal year 2010, those agents apprehended 543 illegal immigrants, 388 of whom originally came from Mexico. In fiscal year 2008, 78 people illegally crossed from Canada into the sector, Forbes said. More recent data wasn't available.

Forbes said the Grand Forks Sector, which stretches south to Kansas and Missouri, has no plans to build roads, fences or other major infrastructure, though an environmental assessment along the entire northern border is being completed to expedite such plans if needed in the future.

Dyke Williams, who for 25 years has owned a cabin on the end of the Gunflint Trail, less than a mile from the border, said it doesn't matter if there are no plans at the moment. "Pass that puppy and you're going to have plans all over the place," he said.

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 17 2nd Qtr 4:18
Atlanta 3
Detroit 0 2nd Qtr 2:42
Green Bay 7
Oakland 7 2nd Qtr 6:42
Denver 17
Arizona 7 2nd Qtr 5:28
San Francisco 13
St. Louis 6 2nd Qtr 2:58
Seattle 0
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/4/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/4/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Detroit 47 2nd Qtr 1:30
Cleveland 43
Houston 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Oklahoma City 6:30 PM
Dallas
New York 8:00 PM
Portland
Toronto 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 0 1st Prd 7:48
Florida 0
Vancouver 7:00 PM
Anaheim
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
NJIT 71 FINAL
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
UMKC 73 FINAL
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Kansas State 56
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 92 FINAL
Arkansas 100
Saint Peters 38 2nd Half 5:32
Cornell 39
St Katherine 51 2nd Half 5:24
Fresno State 80
Haskell 34 2nd Half 7:22
Oral Roberts 74
Wake Forest 46 2nd Half 7:57
Richmond 44
Fla Gulf Coast 40 2nd Half 12:35
Xavier 52
SD Christian 28 2nd Half 7:33
Northern Ariz 58
Judson 22 2nd Half
IUPU-Ft Wayne 44
Ill-Chicago 15 1st Half 10:01
Bradley 15
Loyola-Maryland 15 1st Half 6:41
Fairfield 14
Miss Valley St 25 1st Half 8:16
Houston 25
Lehigh 6 1st Half 14:29
UMBC 8
Delaware State 10 1st Half 8:17
Temple 19
Belmont 5:00 PM
Butler
Howard 5:00 PM
Fordham
NW Christian 5:00 PM
Nevada
UC Davis 5:00 PM
Washington St
Abilene Christian 5:00 PM
Grand Canyon
UCLA 5:30 PM
Alabama
Stony Brook 7:00 PM
Washington
Buffalo 7:00 PM
Wisconsin
CS-Bakersfield 9:00 PM
California
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
UNC Greensboro 61 FINAL
LSU 82
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
(4) Notre Dame 55 2nd Half 12:27
UCLA 42
Coll of Charleston 40 2nd Half 10:07
SC State 50
Alcorn State 37 2nd Half 10:05
Texas-El Paso 36
Dartmouth 67 2nd Half 5:51
Niagara 54
Colgate 25 2nd Half
Siena 29
Michigan 33 2nd Half 11:44
Wisconsin 37
Fla Gulf Coast 34 2nd Half
CS-Northridge 29
Yale 22 2nd Half
(25) Arizona State 34
UC Santa Barbara 8 1st Half 7:27
(16) Stanford 26
Long Island 20 1st Half 7:56
Long Beach St 10
Jackson State 8 1st Half 11:55
Louisiana 17
Eureka 4:30 PM
Western Ill
Cornell 5:00 PM
(22) Syracuse
Temple 7:30 PM
Memphis
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close