One sentence tucked inside the foot-thick omnibus spending bill could spell trouble for wildlife along the nation's borders. Signed into law Oct. 1, the provision allows the U.S. attorney general to waive both the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act for border projects such as fences or roads.
The provision was crafted
specifically to ensure that environmental consultations couldn't
slow down a fence project in Southern California. "We don't need
more studies," says Harold Stavenas, press secretary for one of the
bill's sponsors, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. "We need to seal the
border and we're going ahead with that."
Although environmentalists say it's unlikely the
attorney general would ever invoke the provision, they worry it
sets a precedent for ignoring both environmental laws and the
border area itself. Migration corridors for endangered species such
as the ocelot and the Sonoran pronghorn antelope could potentially
be blocked by new fences.
"It indicates a lack of
concern for the border environment and the people who live there,"
says Marc Coles-Ritchie of the nonprofit Border Ecology Project.
"The implications are enormous," adds Todd Tucci of the National
Audubon Society. "This law stands until the president signs a