Max Baucus should join Jon Tester in opposition to a proposed law that would give one federal agency sweeping authority over all federal lands within 100 miles of the Canadian border. House Resolution 1505, the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act.,” co-sponsored by Denny Rehberg, is bad policy and bad for Montana. This bill would waive 36 federal laws within 100 miles of the border for any activity the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may deem necessary.

Most of the laws that HR 1505 tosses aside, including the Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act, protect the environment; but it also waives laws like the Farmland Policy Protection Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. If the DHS should want its agents to cut a road, erect a wall, or build a forward operating base in Glacier National Park, they could do so without a thought for the impacts.

HR 1505 would also allow agents the run of all federal lands, with absolutely no restrictions. Has a lack of access to the Bob Marshall Wilderness prevented DHS from securing the nation’s borders? Not according to the Border Patrol. Ironically the Border Patrol, which operates under DHS’ umbrella, has not asked for the power to overrule land managers or ignore environmental laws. Recently the Government Accountability Office found that, “Most agents reported that land management laws have had no effect on Border Patrol’s overall measure of border security.”

Despite its title, HR 1505 is not about making Americans safer. It would pave the way for the type of ecological and cultural damage that currently scars our southern borderlands to be inflicted upon Montana. It is an assault on federal lands and environmental laws using border security as a convenient cover, nothing more.

Jonathan Matthews, Helena

John Wolverton, Missoula

B.C. Hunner, Hamilton

Jerry Nicholls, Bitterroot Valley

Rod Jude, Gallatin Valley

Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club,

executive committee members