Los Angeles Times
December 25, 2010
A proposal to consolidate a swath of 250,000 acres of wilderness study areas in New Mexico has sparked an outcry from groups fearing an influx of illegal immigrants and drugs from Mexico. But the Border Patrol says the designation has little effect on its work.
Reporting from the Potrillo Mountains Wilderness — A new front has opened in the centuries-old battle over preserving federal lands in the West, with some advocates of a tighter border arguing that designating some lands as wilderness — meaning they are so precious that no mechanized vehicle can enter — hinders border security.
The U.S. Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies can take vehicles into wilderness areas while chasing lawbreakers. But to patrol the lands by vehicle, plant sensors or build operating bases, they must get permission from the federal agency controlling the region. Some retired agents say they were told by managers of wilderness areas that they could not use helicopters to pick up injured migrants, or that they could patrol only on horseback.
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