Representative Rob Bishop’s (R-UT) is concerned about how the Department of the Interior is – or perhaps more appropriately isn’t – working with the Department of Homeland Security to secure our borders, and he let Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar know it at a hearing of the Committee on Natural Resources. As evidence of the issue’s gravity, Bishop points to a 2004 Interior Department report that had never been released to the public.
According to the report the vast majority of the Organ National Pipe Monument in Arizona has been so degraded that it has lost its ‘wilderness’ character. Trash, vehicle tracks, foot trails and fire scars from illegal immigration and drug trafficking have severely degraded the Monument. Maps and images in the report (see photo) make a compelling case. The National Park Service’s website for the Monument, although cryptic, is consistent with the report indicating a list of roads and back-country areas simply closed off until further notice – your park lands ceded to coyotes and their human cargo and drug smugglers.
The reason these areas are now government sponsored no-man’s lands may be even more troubling. Bishop stated that border patrol agents have been reporting “…that their hands are shackled when dealing with Interior officials on Interior Lands.” It seems that Interior may not be eager to put border security high on the agenda or share data revealing its environmental benefits. If Bishop gets his way, that may change.
Bishop, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, lit into Secretary Salazar over Interior’s handling of several of his document requests. In addition to the documents regarding the border, Bishop requested documents regarding communications between the National Park Service and an advocacy group. According to Mr. Bishop, this request, apparently unfulfilled even though it’s as old as the Obama Administration itself, was triggered by press reports about possible impropriety between the organization and the Department, but the Department has ‘stonewalled,’ ‘foot-dragged’ and made the “false claim” that there are only seven relevant communications. As evidence of the Department’s less than forthcoming behavior Bishop exhibited a list of phone calls made by an Interior official over a dozen pages long with the vast majority of the document ‘redacted’ – Washington speak for ‘blacked out.’ (That’s at about 1:20 on the video.)
Maybe the Department of the Interior didn’t get that Obama memo on establishing “a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.”