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EDITORIAL: Where the fear and the antelope play

Obama imperils Americans allegedly to protect endangered species

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 16, 2010

The battle to stem the flow of humanity across our southern border is hung up by concern for an endangered species. When the dust settles, curbing illegal immigration would be best for the two- and four-legged residents of America's Southwest.

The Sonoran Pronghorn, which resembles an antelope, roams the desert regions of Arizona and Mexico, clinging to a precarious existence. Only about 100 of the creatures separate the species from extinction, and most inhabit a range within the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. The 1,000-square-mile refuge contains seven rugged mountain ranges and shares a 56-mile border with Mexico. Its desolation makes it a favorite gateway into U.S. territory for drug smugglers and illegal aliens, causing murder and mayhem in border communities.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sought to install seven communications towers to spot intruders in the refuge as part of its virtual fence. According to a Fox News report Thursday, objections from environmentalists have resulted in a veto of the original tower proposal by the Obama administration's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now CBP wants to build just one tower, but even that is too much for Wilderness Watch, an environmentalist group. Its director, George Nickas, says the installation would invite human activity that could damage the animals' habitat.

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, counters that the negative impact resulting from thousands of illegals walking and driving through the wildlife refuge and the trash they leave behind is a far greater threat to the Sonoran Pronghorn's fragile range than anything caused by the much smaller footprint of border surveillance.

This doesn't need to be a Mexican standoff with the greens. The public has a long-abiding affection for animals and is not insensitive to the many ways they enhance the wonder of our world. A 2007-08 pet owners survey showed that U.S. families own and care for an estimated 411.8 million animals. In support of the natural habitat, we funded the Fish and Wildlife Service with $2.4 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars in 2009.

Americans also expect the president to fulfill his constitutional duty as commander in chief to defend the nation, period. The failure to secure the border neglects that duty. Those living near our southern border don't want their loved ones to live in fear because of federal policies that give preference to half-baked theories about the safety of animal species over our own. In this case, the decision should be simple because the flood of illegals poses more of a danger to the threatened pronghorn than border enforcement. Obviously, the Obama administration will embrace any argument to keep the floodgates open.

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