The sad part about this story is that it's not actually a story, and it's not even remotely news (in the sense that it's a recent occurrence). While exchanging emails with a reader this afternoon, he emailed me a document that sent me through the roof. It's a 2006 notice from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, advising the general public that a portion of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona had been closed to the public because it had been "adversely affected by border-related activities." Furthermore, the Department stated it felt "continued public use of the area [was] not prudent." This closure was effective as of October 2006. Click HERE to read the entire notice, but here's the essential text:
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has closed a portion of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge south of the Garcia Road to public use, under authority found in 8 RM 13.5 and 50 CFR 25.21(e) effective October 3, 2006. Garcia Road runs east/west parallel to the international boundary about one mile north of the line. This area is about 3500 acres in size. Our concern for public safety is paramount. The situation in this zone has reached a point where continued public use of the area is not prudent. The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge has been adversely affected by border-related activities. The international border with Mexico has also become increasingly violent. Assaults on law enforcement officers and violence against migrants have escalated. Violence on the Refuge associated with smugglers and border bandits has been well documented. Many of these activities are concentrated at, or near, the border. The concentration of illegal activity, surveillance and law enforcement interdictions make these zones dangerous. Closure is in effect until further notice.
The refuge sits almost in the center of Arizona's border with Mexico. Here's a map:
I'm frustrated that many politicians and federal government officials can breezily claim that border violence spillover isn't happening, and the US side of the border is as safe as it's ever been. Yet, we hear stories like the one I posted about earlier today from the Pinal County Sheriff, who says he has no control over portions of his own county. And I read and hear countless stories from ranchers on the US side of the border who constantly deal with armed Mexican thugs on their property who like to break into innocent people's homes and rob them at gunpoint. Then I read this - which our government has obviously known about for some time - and it sends me through the roof. Why hasn't this still-in-effect closure been widely reported in the news? More importantly, why has the security situation in one of our own wildlife refuges been allowed to get so out of hand that we've ceded control to drug and human smugglers, and just outright closed it to public access?
I know this is coming across as a soapbox rant, and I have to offer my apologies. I try to keep my analysis on subjects like this as level-headed as possible, but in light of the back-to-back-to-back confrontations between violent border crossers, smugglers, US law enforcement, and average Americans, I'm starting to lose patience with people who say spillover isn't a problem. Maybe not in their neighborhood, but I've got a truckload of people and towns who would beg to differ.