NPCA submitted the following position to the Senate ahead of votes scheduled for February 15, 2018.
NPCA urges senators to oppose funding for the border wall and measures that strip protections for national parks as they consider remaining amendments to H.R. 2579 and work to provide needed protections for Dreamers.
Some of our nation’s most treasured places, including Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona and Big Bend National Park in Texas, are located along the U.S.-Mexico border. They provide important habitat for wildlife, offer recreational opportunities for visitors and serve as economic engines for communities. Building a wall or expanding barriers through these areas jeopardizes the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources in these national parks.
As you consider the various amendments being proposed, please oppose provisions that:
- Mandate additional tactical infrastructure and technology along our borders without a clear plan or justification of need;
- Create a trust fund that allows for construction of unjustified and unnecessary physical barriers;
- Override the authority of the National Park Service (NPS) and other land managers to protect federal lands, especially language that expands existing waiver authority to all federal lands within 100 miles of both the northern and southern borders.
The physical border infrastructure currently present in national parks has been subject to flooding, blocking wildlife migration and disrupting the viewshed for park visitors. However, according to a 2017 GAO report, Customs and Border Protection does not have metrics to determine the border fencing’s impact on diverting illegal entries or apprehension rates over time. It is irresponsible to authorize additional funding – and potentially additional negative impacts on our national parks – for a tactic that has proven to be expensive and its effectiveness uncertain. The Department of Homeland Security’s authority, as granted under the Real ID Act of 2005, to waive any laws it deems necessary to proceed with border construction is extreme and unwise. Waiving core laws like the National Park Organic Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act undermines the ability of NPS to conduct their duties to ensure national parks are protected and accessible to the public.
Border Patrol and park staff have developed working relationships on the ground that make this heavy-handed authority unnecessary. In fact, acting Organ Pipe superintendent, Rijk Morawe, recently said, “[Border Patrol and NPS have] come to a point where we’ve worked together, gotten the access we need and are being managed well. We all need to respect each other’s missions; they get that, we get that, and it’s working.” Instead of waiving the role of NPS and other federal land managers, Congress should be supporting this type of collaboration which helps both agencies achieve their missions.
NPCA urges senators to oppose these provisions and find border security alternatives that do not sacrifice the protection of our national parks, the experience of park visitors and the wellbeing of surrounding communities.
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Associate Director, Government Affairs