Letter to the Editor: New ‘Protection Act’ attacks the environment and states rights
Recent legislation passed by the House of Representatives would unnecessarily sweep away 16 major environmental laws that protect the people, wildlife, and natural resources of Maine. Controversial H.R. 1505, The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, commonly referred to as the Bishop Bill after its sponsor, Utah Representative Rob Bishop (R), passed the House this month after being slipped into a larger piece of legislation. The Bishop Bill grants Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security unwarranted and unnecessary powers to ignore major environmental legislation within 100 miles of United States land borders. For interior states, such as Utah (Bishop’s state) the threat to natural resources is less imminent, but here in Maine this means that almost our entire state could be subject to unregulated environmental impacts.
This reckless piece of legislation would set a dangerous precedent. The laws that H.R. 1505 proposes to undermine have served to protect American people and our environment and cultural resources for decades, and include the National Historic Preservation Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the Wilderness Act.
John Leshy, the former Department of Interior Solicitor General under President Clinton argued that this bill is “breathtakingly extreme” and will allow Homeland Security to “do what they want, without any advance notice, check, or process.” Under this law, the Department of Homeland Security would have unfettered access to public lands (National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management Lands, Tribal Lands and National Forests) and would be allowed to alter, or restrict access to these areas as they please without consulting local communities, and forgoing any input by state and federal agencies designed to protect and preserve the places Mainers care about.
If passed by the Senate in the coming months, The Department of Homeland Security would be allowed to cease or modify recreational and commercial activities on our public lands as they see fit, and alter protected wild lands through the construction of fences, bases, roads, surveillance towers, and additional support infrastructure.
In Maine this would make vulnerable thousands of protected acres in the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the North Woods, The White Mountains National Forest, Acadia National Park, Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, Caribou Speckled Mountain Wildlife Refuge, and many other fragile areas that the people of Maine have fought long and hard to protect for future generations.
Additionally, this bill would weaken aspects of Native American sovereignty here in Maine, and would open up American Indian lands and communities to unregulated environmental impacts potentially affecting the lands of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the Houlton Band of Maliseet, the Passamaquoddy, and the Penobscot Nation.
Neither the Department of Homeland Security, nor the Border Patrol requested the powers that Bishop and his Republican supporters seek, because current agreements between Homeland Security and the Agricultural and Interior Departments are working well. In fact, United States Customs and Border Patrol has issued an official statement opposing HR 1505, and Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has said, “It is unnecessary, and a bad policy.”
Bishop and his followers are strategically playing upon people’s emotions and fears by using homeland security and immigration as a rouse to secure unnecessary and unchecked powers for the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security, and to put a huge crack in the armor of our environmental protections.
Bar Harbor, Maine