Without incorporation of federal or state law enforcement needs and based on five-year-old data, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a Department of Interior agency, has issued a Lower Sonoran and Sonoran Desert National Monument Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement that will make it easier for smugglers to pass through Arizona’s Pinal and Maricopa Counties without law enforcement interference. To date, these two counties have suffered the most from illegal activity and have the most aggressive local law enforcement activity ongoing.
The plan makes road access inside the Sonoran Desert National Monument difficult for law enforcement and severely restricts the roads U.S. citizens can travel on, penalizing citizens for much of the damage done by illegal-alien activity. The plan will thus hamper federal law enforcement ability to pursue illegal-alien and drug-cartel activity in the “hot” corridors of south central Arizona in the Vekol Valley/I-8 corridor. Corollary negative results include the inability of U.S. citizens to support law enforcement with call-ins about illegal alien and drug loads inside the Monument. In addition, the hidden cameras that have helped show America the reality of our “secure” borderlands, as seen in my Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border series and updated in my blogs, will become even more complicated to pursue.
This plan represents all that is outdated and inconceivable in today’s environmental assessments:
- There is no acknowledgment that operational control of the Monument by law enforcement will minimize the environmental damage caused by illegal aliens who do not abide by the law nor care about the environment, which is verbally acknowledged by BLM law-enforcement personnel.
- The data used is from 2005, long before the current exacerbated use of this same area by drug and alien smugglers on foot, bikes and vehicles.
- Any Monument damage is blamed in the plan’s executive summary on American citizens improperly conducting “target shooting,” with only one phrase referencing trash—and no other damage—caused by illegal-alien activity. While there is limited discussion of illegal-alien destruction in the body of the report, the issue is not given a heading as three headings are given to “targeting shooting.” In short, “target shooting” is mentioned 399 times in the document; “smuggler,” “smuggling,” and “undocumented alien” are mentioned a total of 80 times.
- Law enforcement needs are almost completely ignored.
Instead, the plan’s executive summary ignores issues caused by illegal activity, and instead states that the “changing conditions” that contribute to the need for this BLM assessment consists of legal requirements, demographics, and recreational activity:
- Unprecedented regional population growth and urban expansion into surrounding public lands is increasing demand for access to and use of public lands and resources. Growth contributes to dramatic increases in and demands for commodities, utilities, renewable energy, communication, transportation, and infrastructure on public lands.
- Emerging recreational activities, some based on recent technologies, has yielded new recreational equipment and increased use of public lands.
- New legal and BLM policy requirements have resulted in additional or revised management responsibilities.
- New information and understandings of ecological relationships has led to changes in management direction.
While it is no fault of the regulations guiding BLM that the assessment ignores environmental damage caused by the illegal-alien smuggling and cartel activity nor the necessary access by law enforcement, there is an unfortunate irony that U.S. citizens and law enforcement will be the most negatively affected by the proposed plan. Meanwhile, the illegal-alien population that does not abide by law will be further emboldened to use and destroy the ecosystem BLM is trying to preserve.
This plan represents an example of why Congress must make changes to wildlife designation and BLM land laws to incorporate issues pertaining to law enforcement access needs, U.S. citizen access, and the destructive effect of illegal-alien activity on federal border lands—prior to designation and management changes.
Public meetings on the issue were held on October 4, 2011 in Phoenix, and are scheduled for Mesa and Casa Grande on October 12 and 13. Comments are open to the public. Perhaps a Congressional comment or two—in the form of public hearings on the overall issue of federal border land environmental designations and plans—would prove worthwhile.