Disastrous Bill Will Exempt Thousands of Acres of Wilderness From Environmental Laws

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(05/04/2005) - Washington, DC - The so-called "Real ID" Act, expected to pass the House tomorrow, will expose thousands of acres of public land, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas along the U.S. border to extreme environmental damage, according to Defenders of Wildlife. 

"By exempting the Department of Homeland Security from environmental laws within public lands along the Mexican and Canadian borders, some of our nation's most valuable wilderness areas are now prone to a new level of destruction as new construction projects begin," stated Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife. "Certainly we do not need to sacrifice some of our nation's most cherished wilderness areas to protect our borders."

The "Real ID" Act will include sweeping language allowing the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to exempt the agency from all federal, state and local environmental laws when constructing walls, fences, roads and other barriers along U.S. borders. Nearly 7,500 miles of land along the U.S. International border is affected by this bill. It will also eliminate vital protections under the Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act and other laws intended to protect wildlife, laws that every other federal agency must obey. 

"Ensuring our national security is essential, but allowing exemptions from all environmental laws along our international borders is extreme and unnecessary," stated Schlickeisen. "Already our federal laws are flexible enough to ensure that our wildlife and natural resources are protected in our efforts to improve national security. This bill has the potential to cause irrevocable harm by altering the existing balance of both protecting our borders along with our wildlife and wild lands."

The bill is expected to be agreed to now that the Senate has yielded to the House and agreed to include the so-called "Real ID" Act as a legislative rider to the Supplemental Appropriations bill. The Senate had passed its version the Supplemental Bill without the Real ID Act.

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Defenders of Wildlife Defenders of Wildlife is one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and habitat, and was named "Best Wildlife Charity" by Readers Digest in 2005. With nearly 1 million members, supporters and electronic advocates, Defenders is an effective voice for wildlife and habitat.

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Contact(s):

Deborah Bagocius, (202) 772-0239
William Lutz, (202) 772-0269

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