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Rep. Bishop Introduces Legislation to Bring Greater Security to U.S. Border and Federal Lands

April 13, 2011
Press Release
National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) today introduced the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505).  This legislation remedies current security gaps that exist on federal lands along our nation's borders by preventing the Department of Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using environmental policies to restrict the U.S. Border patrol from obtaining routine access.  House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) are original co-sponsors of the bill.

"This legislation takes the necessary and responsible steps to address the unacceptable restrictions that prevent Border Security experts from doing their jobs.  Allowing public land managers and restrictive environmental policies, not Border Security experts, to dictate how we secure our nation's borders and keep our country safe is counterintuitive, and as a result, has jeopardized the safety and security of all Americans," said Bishop.

There are more than 20 million acres of federal land located along the southern U.S. border region.  Due to the U.S. Border Patrol's inability to maintain a routine presence on federal lands, criminal drug and human smuggling organizations have co-opted these areas as superhighways into the United States. Drug cartels and other criminal operations recognize that federal lands provide miles of virtually unfettered access into the U.S.  This has not only contributed to the escalating border violence but has also caused severe environmental degradation. 

"The federal lands along our border are a haven of criminal activity and the same environmental policies that are supposed to be protecting the lands are actually allowing them to be destroyed.  In fact, what benefit these regulations are actually providing remains a mystery.  I have seen firsthand the damage that has been done to our federal lands from trash, foot traffic and man-made fires.  Providing Border Patrol with the necessary access to deter and apprehend those who cross through our federal lands illegally would deliver the greatest benefit to both national security and the long-term health of our federal lands," Bishop added.

On Friday, April 15th  the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and the Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations Subcommittee will hold a joint oversight hearing titled "The Border: Are Environmental Laws and Regulation Impeding Security and Harming the Environment?." 

Specifically, the National Security and Federal Protection Act:

  • Prevents the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from impeding, prohibiting, or restricting the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to obtain operational control of the border.
  • Provides the Department of Homeland Security with immediate access to federal lands necessary to provide the utmost security throughout the border region.
  • Allows the U.S. Border Patrol to construct and maintain roads and place surveillance equipment in strategic areas that will assist in detecting and apprehending criminals.
  • Allows the Department of Homeland Security to waive certain policies preventing them from obtaining full operational control of the border.