Thursday, May 22, 2008

Border militarization harming AZ wildlife refuges

Bush/Chertoff's lawless border militarization and walls are badly damaging wildlife refuges

TUCSON -- Two National Wildlife Refuges in Arizona are among the most threatened in the U.S., according to a new report by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Buenos Aires and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuges find themselves virtually under siege due to militarization of our border and the ravages of mechanized traffic through fragile desert wildlife habitat.

The National Wildlife Refuge System was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 when he designated Florida’s Pelican Island as America’s first wildlife refuge. Today the system encompasses more than 540 refuges in all 50 states.

Based upon interviews with refuge staff, PEER identified the Ten Most Imperiled Refuges in the U.S. The threatened refuges span the nation from Alaska’s Yukon to the Florida Keys and are in jeopardy due to mining, drilling, pollution and other human intrusions. The other eight most threatened refuges are:

· National Key Deer Refuge (FL) – sprawling development and auto traffic

· National Bison Range (MT) – paralyzing dispute over demands to remove refuge control from FWS

· Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (NC) – road construction

· Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge (AK) – land exchange for oil & gas drilling

· Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (NY) – limestone quarry

· Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge (MI) – agricultural pollution

· Baca National Wildlife Refuge (CO) – oil and gas drilling

· San Pablo Bay and Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuges (CA) – water pollution and sprawl

“Each of these threatened refuges has a different story, but they all share the peril of politics undermining the mission of wildlife protection,” remarked Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson. “Cabeza Prieta and Buenos Aires are imperiled because they are inside what has become a war zone – to the extreme detriment of the wildlife that is supposed to find refuge on these refuges.”

Buenos Aires
also is suffering from growing destructive recreational and border-related off-road vehicle traffic that has outstripped the ability of that refuge to manage. ORVs have become the top law enforcement problem and source of resource damage on public lands in the West, according to analyses prepared by PEER.

“Holistic federal immigration policy reform is badly needed to address major environmental damage caused by border walls and militarization,” Patterson added. “Desert habitat cannot withstand the scarring inflicted by DHS, smugglers and recreational off-road vehicles, and wildlife has no defense against walls and rampaging trucks.”

Other coverage: Denver Post; AZ Daily Star

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