Border Patrol Poisoning Plants Along Mexican Border

rio-grande border mexico photo

Rio Grande via Aquistbe

When Michael Chertoff was in charge of Homeland Security, he took the environment seriously. He justified the wall he was building between Mexico and the United States:
....there are also environmental reasons to stop illegal crossings....illegal entrants leave trash and high concentrations of human waste, which impact wildlife, vegetation and water quality in the habitat. Wildfires caused by campfires have significantly damaged the soil, vegetation, and cultural sites, not to mention threatened human safety."

He would probably therefore be upset to learn that the US Border Patrol is planning to poison that vegetation "to improve visibility and mobility."

agent orange helicopter photo

Spraying Agent Orange during Vietnam War

According to the Houston Chronicle,

Although Border Patrol and Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.

"We don't believe that is even moral," said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center at Laredo Community College, next to the planned test area.

They are going to either hand-cut the carrizo cane that they say "criminals are hiding in" and paint the stumps with herbicide, or spray Imazapyr from helicopters. No word on how they are going to keep it out of the river.

The Sierra Club doesn't like the idea very much.

Spraying a powerful herbicide by helicopter is a "horrible idea," Oliver Bernstein, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, said.

"It's overkill, in my opinion," Bernstein said. "There are other ways to go about this than spending $2 million and spraying by helicopter."

Environmentalists are also worried about the impact to nesting animals and native habitat in the area, as well as the water supply.

"We're very concerned about where the herbicide is going to travel," Bernstein said.

While the EPA says Imazapyr poses little risk to humans, it isn't much good for anything else; The Critical Habitat project of the Center for Ethics and Toxics writes:

Imazapyr by its nature does not distinguish between the plants it kills. Thus, rare
and endangered plants are particularly at risk from exposure to the herbicide. The EPA has stated that "jeopardy" will occur to terrestrial and aquatic plant species from the use of Arsenal (a brand of Imazapyr)

In soils, imazapyr is persistent. The EPA reports that the half-life of imazapyr is
17 months. If applied to soil, imazapyr is expected to have very high mobility
and thus is likely to contaminate water. Studies have detected imazapyr in
surface as well as groundwater.

Just what you want to spray by a river.

More on the Border:
Mexican Government Cites Ecological Dangers of Border Wall
Immigration Meets Environmentalism
Michael Chertoff, Environmental Action Figure

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