Give the Border Patrol credit

  Dear HCN,


The author of "Battered Borderlands' (HCN, 9/27/99) went to extra lengths to unfairly portray the Border Patrol as being totally oblivious of, and uncaring toward, the environmental impact of our activities in the desert. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have been working diligently to comply with NEPA, and at the same time balance environmental concerns with the potential for loss of human life in the harsh desert climate.


The article states that the "wave of immigrants and chaos of Border Patrol trucks and helicopters may overwhelm desert wildlife." That is considerable literary license. Currently, we make one helicopter patrol each morning of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the primary habitat for the Sonoran pronghorn antelope. The route has been carefully reviewed to minimize any impact upon the antelope during critical fawning periods. Patrolling by vehicles in the area is limited to existing roads. Only in the event that aircraft locates persons do vehicles travel off road to arrest and to remove them from the desert.


To say that our personnel have not received any training or maps of the pronghorn's habitat is simply inaccurate reporting. The personnel who work in the Cabeza Prieta have been trained each year, for the past two years, on the habitat and sensitivities of the area. Moreover, all sector managers were briefed at a supervisors' meeting during fiscal year 1999 by staff from the Bureau of Land Management.


The article reported that the Border Patrol has never completed a biological opinion on our activities in the habitat area. The Border Patrol does not do biological opinions; those are done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Border Patrol is only required to conduct a biological assessment, the latest of which was completed in January 1999. This assessment was completed by a well-known consulting firm with a highly qualified staff of environmental scientists.


The article alleges that the Border Patrol has not participated in meetings regarding pronghorn recovery efforts. In fact, the Border Patrol has two representatives on the Barry M. Goldwater Executive Council (BEC), and we have attended several such meetings within the past two years.





James S. Switzer


Yuma, Arizona





The writer is chief patrol agent of the Justice Department's Immigration and Naturalization Service.





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