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FBI, DHS under fire from environmentalists over stewardship of protected lands

Cleveland National Forest (source)

Conservation and wildlife activists are concerned that FBI stewardship of 900 acres of federal land connecting Laguna Wilderness Park to the Cleveland National Forest will destroy habitats and wreak biological havoc. 

Elisabeth Brown, president of Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., told The Laguna Beach Independent that the FBI’s expansion onto more land would mean “slow ecological death” for the Laguna greenbelt. The greenbelt serves as a major throughway for wildlife moving from the park to the National Forest. 

The Laguna Beach Independent reports:

The FBI plans to continue to use the acreage for target and explosives training. The land is now under the stewardship of the Federal Aviation Administration, which no longer wants to manage the property. If the FBI assumes stewardship, it has agreed to participate in “a working group” of concerned environmental organizations to determine how the corridor is managed.

[Conservation activist] Brown as well as Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League in Los Angeles, brought the FBI’s plan to assume stewardship to public attention several years ago. “Basically we have the government of the United States falling down on all its commitments and breaking all its promises,” claimed Silver, an M.D. whose first efforts in conservation preserved the Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside County in 1989.

[A government report] says the FAA and FBI have cooperated with federal standards “to ensure the protection of wildlife and habitat resources at El Toro while accommodating existing land use and activities.”

Accommodating those uses, said Silver, reveals the problem. “We will lose control of it,” he said. “Over time, the FBI will encroach and encroach and encroach, and expand incrementally.”

The FBI now uses 200 acres of the habitat for three firing ranges, explosives training, a tactical maze, underground bunkers, two classrooms, paved and dirt roads and a 30-space parking lot, according to the report.

The FBI started with one firing range in a 10-acre side canyon, Brown said. “Nobody would have minded if they’d stayed there,” she said, “but they went ahead and constructed a new building there, new parking lot and another shooting range. There’s a whole series of underground bunkers.”

DHS has also come under fire from environmentalists who charge the agency with destruction of ecosystems along the borders. 

Last year Utah Republican Congressman Bob Bishop introduced legislation that would have handed control over federal lands within its magical 100 mile border zone to the Department of Homeland Security. The “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act” was reported out of committee on October 5, 2011, but likely to the cheers of environmentalists Congress has yet to bring it up for a vote.

In the fall of 2011, The Great Falls Tribune reported on the bill:

The bill would give the secretary of homeland security total operational authority over all federal lands within 100 miles of the U.S. international and maritime borders. Under the proposed law, DHS would have immediate access to, and control over, any public land managed by the federal government for "purposes of conducting activities that assist in securing the border (including access to maintain and construct roads, construct a fence, use vehicles to patrol and set up monitoring equipment)."

In Montana, the law would impact nearly the entire northern third of the state, including Glacier National Park; portions of the Kootenai and Flathead national forests; The Flathead, Blackfeet, Rocky Boy's, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian reservations, the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, and tens of thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management lands.

The measure also waives 36 major environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Clean Air Act.

Maybe DHS and FBI have their own axes to grind against environmentalists?

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.