A new house bill wants to allow the Department of Homeland Security to have jurisdiction over all federal lands on national seashores and coastal areas.

HR Bill 1505, the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act,” would force the Secretary of the Interior to cede authority of coastal public lands, as well as lands located along the borders of Canada and Mexico, to the Secretary of Homeland Security when the latter sees fit. It would give the Dept. of Homeland Security the ability to construct roads and fences, deploy patrol vehicles and set up “monitoring equipment” in the National Seashore with impunity. And it would waive the need for the Dept. of Homeland Security to comply with environmental laws in areas within 100 miles of a coastline or international border.

The laws from which the Dept. of Homeland Security would be exempt include the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Air Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and virtually every other piece of environmental legislation passed by Congress.

The bill is not without opposition. Congressman William Keating , who also sits on the House committee for Homeland Security, is concerned about the language in the bill as it appears to allow for outright destruction of parts of the United States as long as the DHS claims that there is some sort of security risk. There are also massive environmental and legislative problems to be taken into consideration as well.

…the proposed legislation would give unprecedented authority to a single federal agency to destroy wildlife habitat and wetlands, impair downstream water quality and restrict activities such as hunting, fishing and grazing. It would leave Congress and the public without a voice, even though at stake are hundreds of popular destinations,” including Glacier National Park, the Great Lakes, the California coastline and Cape Cod, said Jane Danowitz, director of U.S. public lands for the Pew Environment Group.

Areas in which environmental laws would be waived under the proposed law include the entire border of Alaska, most of Puerto Rico, all of Hawaii and all of Florida. Other national parks that be would affected include Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainer National Park in Washington, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Big Bend National Park in Texas, Acadia National Park in Maine and Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina.

This is far too sweeping legislation. It essentially allows the DHS to do whatever it wants, including destroying habitats and coastlines, all in the name of security. There would be no oversight and no recourse for anyone or anything in the affected areas.

When is this overreaching of government going to be enough? Would you like to visit any of the places named above if they were swarming with armed military, checkpoints, and “random” stops, especially if you had no recourse to complain about them? What are the “other purposes” in this bill and just how far will it be stretched to fit the mission of the DHS as it changes day to day? We need to stop this bill while it’s still in committee. Once it becomes a law, these former parks and seashores will no longer be a place for a family to enjoy a weekend together. It will be a militarized border, questionable to no one.

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