Border security overkill

With more than a century between us of working the land, farming and ranching are in our blood. We work 1,500 miles apart — one near the Mexico border, one near the Canada line — but we share a lifestyle rooted in being stewards of America’s borderlands.

As border-area landowners, we strongly oppose two bills pending in Congress: HR 1505, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and S 803, co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Both bills would give unrestricted power to the Department of Homeland Security on all public lands within 100 miles of the border (land currently under the jurisdiction of the Interior or Agriculture departments, a great deal of which is leased to ranchers and farmers).

This legislation — ostensibly for national security purposes — would allow the department to do many things on this land, including using vehicles, building roads, fences, living quarters and airstrips and deploying forward operating bases. For example, national parks advocates have raised concerns that if the department determined it needed surveillance equipment in a park — say on Chief Mountain in Glacier National Park — it could install it without any public comment or even internal review process.

These bills would allow the department to run roughshod over ranching and farming operations in the area, and waivers to existing laws would remove any incentive for it to work with landowners and communities. These bills are unnecessary and would be harmful to our rural economy, to our successful collaborations with the Border Patrol and, most important, to our public and private borderlands.

Even the DHS is not backing the bills. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate subcommittee in March that unrestricted authority over public lands was unnecessary for the Border Patrol to do its job and was “bad policy.” Those of us who live and work near U.S. borders know that collaboration helps rather than hinders border security efforts.

The kind of indiscriminate road building and other development allowed would not have to take into account the detrimental effects on nearby neighbors.In addition, there are 36 landmark laws (including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, hazardous waste laws, tribal preservation law, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the National Park Service Organic Act) that could be waived to give the DHS complete “operational control” and “immediate access” to these lands.

Many southern border ranchers already have seen the problems created by previous such waivers. The costly results for landowners and communities have included significant flood and erosion damage as well as damage to individual landowners’ efforts to restore vegetation and range-land health.

The border lands of Montana and Arizona are not for everyone. It’s hard to get to some of these places. It is often either bone-chillingly cold or unbearably hot. But when we are out working the land, we are still stunned by its natural beauty. We work tirelessly to restore and protect the health of this land while also relying on it to turn a profit so we can provide for our families.

We support the Border Patrol’s mission to secure our borders. We also strongly believe that compliance with laws and regulations is key to ensuring that the rights of borderland landowners and rural communities are protected as the agency carries out that mission. But our natural heritage does not need to be sacrificed for the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol to do their jobs.

• Skari is a farmer in Montana; Ladd is a rancher in Arizona.


Wed, 02/22/2017 - 11:53

Stand with Alaskans and stand with Planned Parenthood

I appreciate Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s recent decision to support repealing the Trump administration’s global gag rule. The global gag rule bans federal money for overseas family planning programs if the programs also provide abortion, or provide information about abortion. The global gag rule puts thousands of lives at risk, and Murkowski has rightly recognized that. I praise Murkowski, and want her to know that Alaskans stand with her in supporting access to family planning services. This means that we support Planned Parenthood, and we hope she will stand with us in the coming weeks by refusing to vote for any changes to the Affordable Care Act that include defunding Planned Parenthood. Read more

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:42

Alaska editorial: The opioid issue

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:41

Expanding apprenticeship in rural Alaska

We are proud to announce a new statewide training initiative: the Alaska Maritime Apprenticeship Program. Over the past year, the Calista Corporation, in partnership with the state and federal government, has built a Registered Apprenticeship program to train Alaskans for careers on deck, in the engine room, and in the galley, earning both a salary and an industry-recognized credential. Working with a group of companies including Brice Marine and Yukon River Towing, we are expanding career and training opportunities for Alaskans in the maritime industry.

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Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:40

Transboundary mining: Defending Alaska’s interests

It is a big week for Alaska’s capital city. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan are in town to address the Alaska State Legislature, the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) Board of Directors, and all Alaskans. There are a number of issues on which the state of Alaska, including our elected decision makers at both the state and federal levels, can show unity. One of those critical issues is asking the U.S. federal government to defend Alaskan interests in the Alaska-British Columbia (B.C.) transboundary mining issue.

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