A Cry for the Borderlands Into the Partisan Wilderness of Washington DC

 

For 10 years, ever since the passage of the REAL ID Act in 2005, the wildlife, people and ecosystems of the US-Mexico borderlands have suffered the destruction of unprecedented militarization and the waiver of environmental and many other laws. Senator John McCain is working to expand borderlands destruction and disenfranchisement through a bill S750, cynically titled “The Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act.” I visited his senate office yesterday with members of the Sierra Club Borderlands Team, and sat down with a staffer who listened politely and patiently waited for us to leave. Today I wrote this letter to Senator McCain via his legislative aide–asking him to withdraw his bill waiving all laws within 100 miles of the Arizona border:

Dear David,

Thanks so much for the meeting yesterday with myself and the Sierra Club. I realize there are many issues we see differently, but I hope we can find a meeting place of common ground in the borderlands. In this region over the past 10 years, our national parks, environmental laws and wildlife conservation efforts have been reeling blow by blow as our nation has erected walls and moved border enforcement further and further from the actual border. Senator McCain’s bill S750 would further expand that region of lawlessness to 100 miles from the border, stripping the land and its inhabitants of all laws, and putting all of southern Arizona at the whim of whoever controls DHS.

Border patrol already has unprecedented authority over all other federal agencies on the border, (and in the entire nation–with the CBP budget exceeding that of all other federal law enforcement agencies combined). People, environmental and civil rights organizations are essentially powerless in relation to the massive presence of DHS in the borderlands. I have seen the destruction that has come from this excessive power for a single federal agency. And I have been at the receiving end of this undemocratic imbalance of power–with my vehicle searched multiple times (nowhere near the border), being stopped and questioned by armed agents and intimidated just for being on public lands within 20 miles of the border.

DHS itself has repeatedly testified to Congress that it does not need or want further waiver authority in the borderlands, making all of the recent attempts to strip environmental protections from the region curious. Immigration is at net-zero and we know most illegal drug imports come through the ports of entry, and there has never been a single documented case of a terrorist coming across the southern border–so we have to ask ourselves, what is motivating the never-ending string legislation that aims to remove environmental protections and increase expensive border militarization that is born on the backs of American taxpayers?

Basically what we were asking in our meeting, and what the Sierra Club is asking going forward, is for a commitment from Senator McCain to protect our borderlands parks, refuges and people from further disenfranchisement and destruction. Please urge your boss to withdraw S750, and to oppose any other form of expansion of legal waivers on the border. And in the future to oppose any further attempts to add walls and waivers to immigration bills. The lives of the people and wildlife, and the ecological integrity of our national parks, wilderness and wildlife refuges on the border should not be handed over as a bargaining chip for immigration reform or electoral politics. We need Senator McCain’s help.

I am attaching a link to a slideshow/book talk that I have done around the country to help the public understand what’s at stake in the borderlands. I hope you will take a look at it and show it to your boss
.

Again, thanks very much for your time.
Best wishes,
Krista

Anacostia

The Wildest Part of Washington DC

We all have a stake in what happens to our rivers, but perhaps none more so than the wild neighbors who share our urban waters and green space. They go unnoticed most of the time. They’re not present in the meetings where decisions are made to cut down urban forests, or pave over vernal pools.

In the Anacostia watershed in Washington DC and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland, thousands of wild animal and plant species depend on the decisions we make. If we are going to choose wisely for them, and for us, we need to get to know our neighbors.

Meet more Anacostia neighbors in my photo gallery.

Anacostia Story

The Anacostia River was abused and neglected for more than a century, becoming one of the nation’s most polluted rivers, right in the heart of Washington DC. Today there is growing momentum for restoration of this watershed, but for a full recovery watershed residents must awake, and the Anacostia Story must be told. This slideshow represents a vision for a coffee table book about the Anacostia River, to be used to help elevate awareness and understanding of the watershed, and help more firmly establish the Anacostia’s central role in the quality of life of Washington DC residents.
Click on the first slide below to start the slideshow.

The Anacostia Project

The Anacostia was once a river teeming with fish, turtles and aquatic mammals that nurtured a rich biological community including native peoples descendent from the Algonquin tribe. But history descended upon the Anacostia when the Chesapeake Bay became one of the first centers of European colonization. First deforested and polluted by agricultural runoff, then forgotten and polluted further by urban runoff, the Anacostia diminished to one of the nations most denuded river ecosystems.

But change is afoot.

Anacostia 7-2014-7094 copy

A growing grassroots revival and renewed interest by municipal and county governments to restore this river has brought hope to the Anacostia and the many people and wild species that live along its shores. This river has the potential to be a natural gem supporting improved quality of life, economic improvement and habitat for plants and animals of the region. Surprisingly, there remain long stretches of the river, (which lies almost entirely within the Washington D.C. metropolitan area), that have not been developed.

The Anacostia Project aims to help local non-profits and governments build a campaign of community support around the river, to document current efforts to restore the river, and encourage local leaders to both recognize the great value of the river, and then make the Anacostia a priority.

Learn more about the Anacostia Project here.