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House takes up bill to waive enviro laws on border

By Matthew Daly

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 19 2012 1:02 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House is moving toward approval of a bill that would allow the U.S. Border Patrol to circumvent more than a dozen environmental laws on all federally managed lands within 100 miles of the borders with Mexico and Canada.

Supporters say the measure is needed to give border agents unfettered access to rugged lands now controlled by the Interior Department and Forest Service. They say laws such as the Wilderness Act and Endangered Species Act prevent agents from driving vehicles on huge swaths of land — leaving it to wildlife, illegal immigrants and smugglers who can walk through the territory undisturbed.

Opponents, including hunters, conservationists and Latino advocacy groups, call the bill a heavy-handed fix that guts important environmental protections.

The measure faces dim prospects in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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