The Latest: A bill to open public land to Border Patrol

Sen. John McCain proposes more immediate access at the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

    Google Street View

Millions of acres of public land along the Arizona-Mexico border have been damaged by the U.S. Border Patrol’s activities, including Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, home to the rare Sonoran pronghorn, desert bighorn and desert tortoise. In the post-9/11 security buildup, environmental laws were shoved aside to give agents unfettered access to public land, including fragile desert ecosystems (“Border out of Control,” HCN, 6/9/14).

Now, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants to further increase Border Patrol access to borderlands in his state and parts of California. On May 7, a Senate committee passed the “Arizona Borderland Protection and Preservation Act,” which would give security agents “immediate” permission to patrol and deploy equipment on 10 million acres of public lands, including national parks and monuments, within 100 miles of the Mexican border. Critics call the bill unnecessary, given the existing waiver of most environmental protections along the border.

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