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Report: Border Security Not Harmed by Wild Lands Protection

October 28, 2010

TUCSON, Ariz. - A bill in Congress would exempt Border Patrol agents from observing federal rules protecting public lands along the border. Sponsor Rob Bishop of Utah says the rules hinder national security. But a new report states the contrary: that collaboration among federal land management agencies and Homeland Security is actually helping those agencies pursue their missions.

Report author Dr. Kirk Emerson, University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy, found many examples where the agencies worked together to protect wilderness and wildlife habitat while helping secure the border.

"They've cooperated by simply assuring interoperability between radio systems or by enhancing their joint capacity to manage along the border, by coordinating information on the location of illegal entrants or conducting cross-training on security measures or wildlife habitat."

Former U.S. Border Patrol deputy chief Ron Colburn says much of his agency's success in reducing illegal border crossings, such as a 90-percent reduction in the Yuma sector over the last five years, is the result of inter-agency collaboration and cooperation.

"We truly could not have done it without the help of the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and the local, state and tribal agencies that all reach out and help in protecting America."

Former deputy Interior secretary Lynn Scarlett says her department routinely assisted Homeland Security in the performance of their basic mission.

"For example, at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, we facilitated the use of a Fish and Wildlife Service airstrip at the refuge by Border Patrol."

Matt Clark with Defenders of Wildlife, Tucson, says the report shows federal land management restrictions are not impeding border security.

"The protection of our border and the protection of our public lands can be mutually supportive, but the essential ingredient to achieving these win-wins is strong inter-agency consultation and collaboration."

The report generally echoes a recent study from the Government Accountability Office that also documented increased collaboration among the Border Patrol and federal land management agencies.

The report is available at

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ