presence of any wilderness on the Mexican border is a danger to the security
of the United States"
National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers
Motor vehicles are prohibited in Wilderness areas, which
creates a very serious handicap for members of our law enforcement community,
resulting in a direct threat to our national security. These areas
become havens for drug smuggling, human smuggling and other criminal activity.
Wilderness advocates claim that wilderness
designation will not affect law enforcement activities. We have a
collection of news items that clearly indicate otherwise.
Wilderness on the border is a very
Former Border Patrol Officers - NO CONFIDENCE (new 8/30/10)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Vote of No
Confidence in ICE Director and Assistant Director (new 8/4/10)
FBI - On The Southwest Border - Corruption, Drugs, Gangs and More
From a 2004 US General Accounting Office
(GAO) Report titled "Border
Security - Agencies Need to Better Coordinate Their Strategies and
Operations on Federal Lands", comes the following statement: "Congress has designated areas
within some federal lands as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964
and subsequent legislation, while the Fish and Wildlife Service has
designated certain areas as critical habitat for endangered and threatened
species under the Endangered Species Act. Federal
law enforcement officers told us that these designations can hinder their
efforts. For example, motorized vehicles must generally remain on
designated roads in wilderness areas, and the Wilderness Act generally
prohibits construction of permanent structures such as communications
towers in wilderness areas."
Hayes, retired Chief of Air Operations for the Border Patrol,
expresses his concerns by stating "The current effort to create
Wilderness along the border in Dona Ana County and ultimately the
expansion of such activities along the extended border is dangerous and
Bemiller, the Border Patrol Tucson Sector's public-lands liaison is quoted as
smuggling organizations are very aware of where the protected lands are.
They're aware of where the [Border Patrol's] restrictions are, and tend to
take advantage of them. They exploit the wilderness areas."
The National Association of Former Border
Patrol Officers has prepared a document which expresses their concern
about proposed wilderness areas.
Current government employees face many organizational and
political pressures which can heavily influence what they are able to say
and put in writing. Retired employees are not bound by those
constraints and are at liberty to speak freely.
cover letter, Mr. Kent Lundgren, Chairman, states "The purpose
of this document is to bring attention to the fallacy, and danger, of
efforts underway to further deny Federal Law Enforcement Officers (Border
Patrol Agents), access to areas necessary to defend our southern borders
by granting additional "wilderness area" designations. Our southern
border is today more vulnerable to terrorist activities than at any other
time in our National history. This is not the time to consider
additional designations as 'wilderness'. It may be appropriate at
this time for our Country to repeal some previously approved wilderness
designations to insure the best possible chance for success in ongoing
press release prepared by the NAFBO also includes this: "In
each wilderness debate, there has been a continued reference to a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was agreed to between the
Departments of Homeland Security, Interior, and Agriculture which provides
for Border Patrol access to Federal lands. That MOU spells out clearly
the ability to operate on such lands including designated wilderness. In
wilderness designated areas, the Patrol has the right for entry if in
pursuit, however, normal deterrent operations, including the maintenance
and placement of technical surveillance equipment would require
negotiations between the Agencies involved. Considering the urgency of
protecting our borders, negotiating for access which could take up to 90
days is unacceptably dangerous." It is also important
to understand that a MOU is not a binding document.
Their document, titled
BORDER PATROL, AND NATIONAL SECURITY", contains some very significant
information. In this document,
they state "This effort to create a wilderness designation for a
large portion of our southern border did not originate from citizens of
New Mexico and Arizona. It originated from the NMWA and Sky Island
Alliance. These groups share genesis and past board membership from the
environmental movement, Earth First!. The father of Earth First!, Dave
Foreman., is the founder of NMWA. It was Mr. Foreman who wrote the book
“Ecodefense; A Field Guide to Monkey Wrenching.” These are the folks
who promoted the spiking of trees, the burning of high end condominiums,
the destruction of new cars on parking lots, and the sinking of whaling
ships." (Note: NMWA is the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance)
They go on to state "The Tumacacori Highlands of Arizona, and the
Potrillo Mountains and Broad Canyon portion of the New Mexico proposal are
not just idealistic areas where “earth and its community of life are
undisturbed by man”. If they become wilderness, they will be heralded
not only by those who believe wilderness designation should be made at any
cost, but equally by human smugglers, drug runners, and those committed to
the destruction of our country." The
document references an interview by
the El Paso Times in August with Michael McConnell, Director of National
Intelligence. For a summary of that interview,
Click here for additional information on
Dave Foreman, EarthFirst!, and Mr. Foreman's association and influence on the New Mexico Wilderness
Alliance. The Summer 2007 NMWA newsletter states that Dave Foreman "provided
many, if not most, of the philosophical underpinnings that guide the work of
National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers has a
website, with information
on border issues, immigration, and the effects on National Security.
See also the
Border Invasion website.
The Liberal, KS
Southwest Daily Times wrote an article featuring Mr. Zack Taylor - "Former
border patrol agent speaks on immigration".
"One of the worries Taylor currently has about immigration are two bills,
HR 3287 and HR 2593. The first would designate part of the United
States/Mexico border in Arizona as wilderness. The second would designate
all of the United States border with both Canada and Mexico as wilderness.
'A wilderness designation in the United States is very restrictive as to
what you can do when you’re on the wilderness area,' he explained. 'You
cannot take any kind of mechanized equipment on there – not even a
bicycle.' A couple of weeks ago, a hiker discovered an illegal
immigrant who had been shot three times by bandits, called bajardoras.
'Groups of three to six with automatic weapons go into these wilderness
areas and they rob the illegal aliens that are going through, and if they
give them any resistance, they just shoot them,' Taylor said. 'This is
what a lot of people don’t understand, that the victim is the person
coming here.' Since the man was found in an area designated as a
wilderness, he had to be rescued by foot – a group walked to him with a
stretcher and carried him back out. From the time he was found until he
was taken to the hospital took 12 hours, Taylor said. The bills are
currently pending, he added, but if passed, they would hinder the duties
of the border patrol, because it would keep the border patrolmen away from
the border unless they were on foot or horseback. 'The congressmen
that are supporting it know that this is going to make this area more
dangerous. It’s going to encourage the smugglers to use it more, and
they’re trying to cloak it as wilderness to get it passed,' he said.
'These wildernesses should never be considered on or near the
international borders.' But mainly, he said, the bills would keep
border patrols from being able to do their job. Part of what they do is to
enforce immigration laws. The purpose of those laws, he said, is to
protect the American economy and American jobs and to protect the public
safety and national security."
Listen to a radio interview:
Roger Hedgecock, San Diego KOGO radio talk show host interviews Zack
Taylor, retired Border Patrol officer, on his radio program about the proposed Tumacacori Highlands
Wilderness designation (HR 3287 & 2593) and how it would affect fire
fighting efforts and hamper the Border Patrol efforts to stop drug smuggling, human
smuggling, and terrorist activity on our borders.
Tucson Weekly article "The Chiricahua
Corridor" examines the damage to public lands, private property and local
residents by illegal immigrants. "Much of the badly impacted
land, like Burro Springs, is in the 87,700-acre Chiricahua Wilderness. It
offers a preview of what could be in store for the Tumacacori Highlands
northeast of Nogales, if Rep. Raúl Grijalva gets his way and wins a
wilderness designation for that land. Trash dumps will grow. Underbrush
will expand. Trails won't be maintained. The land will fall out of the
control of the people who should be managing it and under the control of
those who don't belong there." Illegal immigrants will go where
the Border Patrol can't. Designation of federal Wilderness and other
"protective areas" along our borders makes it impossible for federal and
local law enforcement to perform their duties.
and other documentation of the Border Invasion -
The National Association of Former Border
Patrol Officers has a
website, with information on border issues, immigration, and the
effects on National Security. See also
Border Invasion website.
areas along our country's southern border have already discovered the serious
impacts on law enforcement and threats to national security that result from
the restrictions on areas designated as wilderness. Dona Ana County
Todd Garrison has
stated "I have seen what has happened along the border in Arizona
where it also has been turned into a wilderness area, and because of this, I,
as Sheriff, had concerns for county residents."
One of the areas Sheriff Garrison is
referring to is the Cabeza Prieta in Arizona, which shares 56 miles of
border with Mexico. Over 90 percent of the
refuge was designated as wilderness by the 1990 Arizona Wilderness Act.
Since then, more than 200 miles of illegal roads have been created because
of the traffic of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. Managers of
the area estimate each person leaves behind 8 pounds of trash as they
cross this area, resulting in over 2 MILLION pounds of trash annually.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Coronado National Monument
have the same problems and issues.
The National Park Service
website has safety warning information for
Organ Pipe and
Coronado. The warning sign to the left is from Coronado.
The Organ Pipe safety page contains the following information:
"Every year thousands of people are attracted to this remote location for
its apparent ease with which they can illegally enter the USA.", "the
monument's wilderness is laced with hundreds of miles of unofficial roads
and trails." and "As a result of illegal immigrants crossing out borders,
other unlawful acts do occur within the monument.".
This area has also become a
haven for drug and human trafficking. US Park Ranger
was shot and killed in the line of duty at Organ Pipe Cactus National
Monument on August 9, 2002, while pursuing members of a drug cartel hit
squad who fled into the United States after committing a string who fled
into the United States after committing a string or murders in Mexico.
He was 28 years old.
FROM THE FEDERAL LAND MANAGEMENT
From an April 9, 2009 press release from the BLM - " BLM
Cautions Public Regarding Border Violence" -
international border with Mexico is becoming of increasing concern to the U.S.
Government due to an increase in dangerous illegal activities and an
escalating trend in border violence."
Southern Arizona Project to Mitigate Environmental Damages Resulting from
National Park Service - The following announcement is posed on the website
for the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: "Due
to an increase in illegal border activity, all backcountry areas are closed
indefinitely to both hiking and overnight camping. Please check with the staff
at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for current information. We anticipate
this will be a temporary closure, though we are not certain when we can expect
areas to reopen." Note: We are uncertain of when
this advisory was first posted, but it was on the above website for most of
2008, and was still on the website as of 03/29/2010.
Arizona Game & Fish website for Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge:
Special Note Regarding Border Issues:
36B is a corridor for the trafficking of undocumented aliens (UDAs) and drugs.
Hunters will see the trails and trash left by these people. Hunters are urged
to use caution when hunting and camping in 36B or any of the other border
units. It is advisable to use some sort of visible anti-theft device on your
vehicle, for vehicle thefts have increased the past two years. Having a group
of UDAs walk through a hunting area may negatively impact your hunt. The key
to hunting in the border units is the ability to flex and adapt."
link for closure information on the area.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, "Law enforcement work
in the National Park Service is the most dangerous in federal service.
National Park Service officers are 12 times more
likely to be killed or injured as a result of an assault than FBI agents.
Overall, NPS law enforcement has a morbidity rate triple that of the next
worst federal agency."
Portion of US Wildlife Refuge Closed Due to Violent Border Activity
Pinal County Sheriff: Mexican Drug Cartels Now Control Parts of Arizona
Pinal County Sheriff Asks Obama for Troops
U.S. Government Giving Parts of Arizona Back to Mexico
Borderland Beat - Pinal County Sheriff: Mexican Drug Cartels Now Control
Parts of Arizona
BorderFire Report - US Gov Giving Parts of Arizona Back to Mexico
Mr. Zack Taylor has a degree in Wildlife
Ecology from the University of Florida, and worked for the Border Patrol
from 1976 to 2003. He worked alien and drug smuggler traffic in the
proposed Wilderness area from 1988-2003. In his editorial "Observations
on the Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness Proposal" he states:
"When the access road through Peck Canyon was closed to vehicle traffic,
the drug traffic increased. When the vehicle access through Circulo
Sombrero was closed the violence and the drug traffic further increased to
the point that Tubac is now becoming world famous as a place where old
west style killings are taking place today. This is no coincidence and
from my experience is directly related to the lack of access to the area.
Does Tubac want to be known as the Tombstone of the twenty first
century?" "To further restrict lawful access to this area will, from
my experience, increase the drug and alien smuggling in the area and
escalate the level of violence throughout. As Mrs. Lowell so
correctly pointed out it is not now safe to go afield unarmed in this
area. The armed smugglers are already prevalent in the area. Lock it up
and they will take control."
The chart below showing deaths in the Tucson sector is from the Government
Accountability Office report "Illegal
Immigration - Border-Crossing Deaths Have Doubled Since 1995; Border
Patrol's Efforts to Prevent Deaths Have Not Been Fully Evaluated."
While there are numerous factors that enter in to these statistics, the
steady increase begins after the passing of the Arizona Wilderness Act of
The number of
border-crossing deaths in the Tucson sector increased from 11 deaths in
1998 to 216 deaths in 2005.
From the GAO report: "...the Tucson Sector’s share of all
border-crossing deaths increased tenfold, from 4.3 percent of all deaths
in 1998 to 45.8 percent in 2005, so that by 2005, of the 472 deaths that
occurred across all nine southwest sectors, 216 occurred within the Tucson
In comparison, here are the
recorded deaths in the Yuma sector, which adjoins the west side of the
And the El Paso sector
which adjoins the east side of the Tucson sector.
The data in the report
shows that the apprehensions in the area decreased, while the number of
deaths in the area increased.
report states that the reasons for this are unclear. They go on to
state: "While there is evidence that increasing numbers of migrants
have employed smugglers to help them cross the border illegally across all
nine southwest Border Patrol sectors in recent years, smuggling may be
especially dangerous in the Tucson Sector. Border Patrol officials
reported that migrants who are unable to keep up with smugglers may be
left behind in extreme desert temperatures without sufficient food or
Alternatively, the inverse relationship between apprehensions and deaths
in the Tucson Sector could arise if apprehending migrants has become more
difficult in Tucson than in other sectors. This could result from a number
of factors such as changes in the number of agents assigned to patrol the
sector or the number of migrants who are able to evade apprehension by
attempting to cross in particularly remote areas of the sector."
The wilderness designation
is an open invitation for this kind of activity. People are well
aware of the lack of ability by enforcement agencies to utilize motorized
vehicles for patrol purposes, and word quickly spreads that the area is a
haven for illegal activity.
David Bemiller, the Border Patrol Tucson Sector's public-lands liaison is
quoted as stating "The smuggling
organizations are very aware of where the protected lands are. They're
aware of where the [Border Patrol's] restrictions are, and tend to take
advantage of them. They exploit the wilderness areas."
(US Government Accountability Office) released a report on 09/27/07: "Security
Vulnerabilities at Unmanned and Unmonitored U.S. Border Locations".
They state "The possibility that terrorists and criminals might
exploit border vulnerabilities and enter the United States poses a serious
security risk... Congress is concerned that unmanned and unmonitored areas
between these ports of entry may be vulnerable. ... In unmonitored locations,
CBP does not have this equipment in place and must
rely on alert citizens or other information sources to meet its
obligation to protect the border."
summary of the GAO report, they indicate for "Federally managed
lands adjacent to border", that "Investigators
approached the U.S.-Mexico border", and observed "No visible
law enforcement response, no observable electronic monitoring equipment,
investigators observed evidence of frequent border
crossings into the United States at this location." They
also state "However, our limited security assessment identified potential security vulnerabilities on federally managed
lands adjacent to the U.S.–Mexico border; we did not observe
monitoring or a law enforcement presence during the time our investigators
visited these areas. The Department of the Interior (Interior) provided us
with a memorandum of understanding between itself; the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS), of which CBP is a component; and the Department of
Agriculture (USDA) documenting the agreed approach to protecting federal
lands along U.S. borders. Although CBP is ultimately responsible for
protecting these areas, officials told us that certain
legal, environmental, and cultural considerations limit options for
enforcement. ... Our observations on the southern border showed a significant
disparity between the large law enforcement presence on state lands in one
state and what seemed to be a lack of law
enforcement presence on federally managed lands."
considerations" mentioned in the GAO report that have such a
crippling effect on national security will only increase with federal
wilderness designation. A Fox News article from 5/7/08 stated
"In 2006 alone, more than 1.18 million
pounds of trash was collected along the southern Arizona border...
Arizona officials have spent approximately $4.4 million over five years to
clean up the mess, that continues to build with each crossing. Nearly $1
million was spent for 2007 from a base BLM appropriation. Border
Patrol's Tucson sector, which covers most of the Arizona border, doesn't have
statistics about how many people cross through each year, but on average,
agents apprehend 1,500 people a day, with 378,000 undocumented immigrants
caught in 2007 alone."
are also similar concerns about White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss, and
the potential for negative impacts on military operations and security.
Fire fighting activities and Search & Rescue operations will also be
burdened with the restrictions imposed on areas with a wilderness
National Geographic featured a series of
articles on the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness along the border in Arizona.
The series is titled "Border
Patrol: Along the Devil's Highway". The article states
"Arizona's Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge used to be a pristine
desert. Now it's the front line in America's immigration battle,
rife with garbage, drug runners, and illegal aliens. Welcome to the
nation's most troubled wilderness." Like every visitor to the
Cabeza Prieta wilderness, the author was required to sign "Hold Harmless"
agreement indicating he understood the dangers of visiting this area.
"The agreement did not mention other morbid, even ghoulish,
possibilities, such as stumbling over dead bodies, witnessing ongoing gun
battles between Border Patrol agents and drug smugglers, being run down in
the night by a drug-laden vehicle speeding overland with no lights, or
having my own vehicle—including all of my water—stolen while I was off
hiking." The author also states
"Cabeza is now a prime spot for drug runners."
The US Department of State website contains
Information on the impacts of illegal immigration on federally owned
lands. They provide a report titled "Impacts
Caused by Undocumented Aliens Crossing Federal Lands in Southeast Arizona",
along with other
press releases on this issue.
These photos, taken of a "layup area" south
of Tuscon, give a better understanding of the impact. See
Snopes for additional info. Also check out the
BLM reports on the impacts of undocumented aliens crossing federal
lands in southern Arizona.
Menu of All AZ BLM Reports
FY 2009 Summary Report
FY 2009 Fact Sheet
- Cleanup efforts include the areas within 100 miles of the border
- 234 tons of trash, 62 vehicles, 404 bicycles, approximately 800
- Tohono O'odham Reservation removed over 20 tons of trash
- AZ Game & Fish removed over 20 tons of trash
- Cost for FY 2009 was $1,137,500
- Photo of typical layup site
The Wilderness designation closes all roads
that have not been "cherry stemmed", and does not allow
ANY motorized vehicles, except when the managing governmental agencies
"deem it necessary". This will have far-reaching consequences for all
law enforcement agencies, including Border Patrol, Homeland Security, State Police, Sheriff's
office, County officers, etc. Search and rescue efforts become much
more difficult as well. The end result is a substantial threat the
Our law enforcement officer's ability to pursue criminals,
drug traffickers, illegal aliens, etc. will be next to impossible when they are unable to use motorized vehicles
as they deem necessary on public lands.
Not only does the federal wilderness
designation hamper law enforcement, it opens the door for environmental
groups to file numerous lawsuits to create additional hardships for the
agencies charged with protecting our national security. Wilderness
designations next to our border and our military sites would be both
dangerous and foolish.
A designation of "Wilderness" will have no
impact whatsoever on the criminals, drug runners and illegal aliens who seek refuge in remote areas.
They will continue to travel these areas and utilize them as they please.
Wilderness designations in other areas have shown that the unauthorized
traffic INCREASES. The individuals understand that they have in
effect been granted a "free run" across the lands.
There are "Memos of Understanding" in place
that attempt to address this issue, but most have wording that limits the
access for law enforcement officials to "pursuit", and on if
they determine a threat exists to human safety or national security. The MOUs do not
provide for patrol activities or any pro-active measures.
Additionally, MOUs are not binding documents.Additionally, MOUs are not
Law enforcement officials are quick to point
out their reliance on intelligence from local people in the various areas.
One rancher in southern Dona Ana County reports that between 3 and 5
vehicles a WEEK are driven up from Mexico through his ranch and then
abandoned when the terrain becomes too rough or the vehicle runs out of
Todd Garrison states that
"By making this area a wilderness, it will keep the normal traffic
from the area. As you are aware, there will be very limited or no
vehicular traffic allowed due to it being a wilderness. ... I feel
this has the potential to open up the area making it a well-protected
border crossing spot for illegal aliens and terrorists, with them being
able to cross undetected. I have seen what has happened along the
border in Arizona where it also has been turned into a wilderness area,
and because of this, I, as Sheriff, had concerns for county residents."
Richard Hays, retired Chief of Air
Operations for the Border Patrol, states that "...the creation of
Wilderness will limit the all-important source of local intelligence.
The presence of local citizens in big open areas is very important to the
Border Patrol and to the limitation of illegal traffic. Local
presence, local calls, local surveillance, and local knowledge of illegal
movement are very important. The creation of wilderness and the
resulting and dramatic reduction of the accessing of such areas will
reduce and or eliminate this critical source of information and
intelligence. As an American citizen and a retired ranking Border
Patrol official, that is very disturbing to me."
The GAO (US Government Accountability
Office) release a report on 09/27/07: "Security
Vulnerabilities at Unmanned and Unmonitored U.S. Border Locations".
They state "The possibility
that terrorists and criminals might exploit border vulnerabilities and
enter the United States poses a serious security risk... Congress is
concerned that unmanned and unmonitored areas between these ports of entry
may be vulnerable. ... In unmonitored locations, CBP does not have this
equipment in place and must rely on alert citizens
or other information sources to meet its obligation to protect the
In the summary of the GAO report, they
indicate for "Federally managed lands adjacent to border",
that "Investigators approached
the U.S.-Mexico border", and
observed "No visible law
enforcement response, no observable electronic monitoring equipment,
investigators observed evidence of frequent
border crossings into the United States at this location."
They also state
"However, our limited security assessment identified
potential security vulnerabilities on federally
managed lands adjacent to the U.S.–Mexico border; we did not
observe monitoring or a law enforcement presence during the time our
investigators visited these areas. The Department of the Interior
(Interior) provided us with a memorandum of understanding between itself;
the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which CBP is a component;
and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) documenting the agreed approach
to protecting federal lands along U.S. borders. Although CBP is ultimately
responsible for protecting these areas, officials told us that
cultural considerations limit options for enforcement.
... Our observations on the southern border showed a significant disparity
between the large law enforcement presence on state lands in one state and
what seemed to be a lack of law enforcement
presence on federally managed lands."
The existing MOU is clearly not providing
adequate access for law enforcement officers. The "legal,
environmental and cultural considerations" mentioned in the GAO report
that have such a crippling effect on national security will only increase
with federal wilderness designation. Groups which specialize in
environmental and endangered species litigation put tremendous pressure on
land management agencies and our Border Patrol.
There are also issues affecting White Sands
Missile Range and Fort Bliss, and the potential for negative impacts on
military operations. The prohibition on motorized vehicles and lack
of access will cause significant problems if military personnel need to
retrieve ordinance that falls within areas designated as wilderness.
Some wilderness groups claim fly-over of aircraft is damaging to
wilderness. Fly-over occurs frequently in the areas close to WSMR
and Fort Bliss. The potential for lawsuits from wilderness watch
groups raises serious concerns.
Our law enforcement agencies and military have
enough challenges on their hands. As residents of Dona Ana County,
we should have grave
concerns about regional, state and national security if our law enforcement
officials have to work under these unrealistic constraints.
For more information on
Border Wilderness issues -
The Border - A Bad Idea
For our chronological news archive, click here