It’s the day before the Republican primary elections here in North Carolina. I’ll be voting. It’s one way for me to voice my opinion, and I hope this letter is one of many more you will receive from me.
This letter is to urge you to vote against National Security and Federal Lands Protect Act (H.R. 1505). It will do nothing but harm to some of our Nation’s most amazing places. Furthermore, my personal experience is evidence that there is already an adequate density of border agents, their vigilant presence, and influence in the vicinity of our borders. This is my experience.
Two years ago, on May 1, I was driven from San Diego to a monument a stone’s throw from the wall of the Mexican border near Campo, California. I was starting a 1,200-mile hike of America’s Congressionally protected Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Comparable to its well-known eastern counterpart, the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail is even longer and more majestic than the A.T. – running border to border, 2,600 miles – Mexico to Canada. It’s a line that literally connects our country, its beauty, history, and people.
Trust me, there is plenty of border patrol activity in Southern California already without the providing them with additional control. As I stood at the monument that morning, I looked back at the wall that bisected the land on which I stood; between where I stood and the wall, the sand had been smoothed flat – a first step in Border Patrol tracking footprints, here and along the rest of the border.
For the next several days of walking, the next seventy to a hundred miles, I was watched, constantly. Being a backpacker, I’m comfortable going to the bathroom in the wilderness. What I found a bit unsettling is that despite my vigilance to ensure my privacy while doing so (look, look, look, “yep, it’s all clear”) I would inevitably finish my business, walk several more paces and then see the border patrol agents. They are everywhere! The border patrol is not want of manpower, supplies, or “control” within the current structure, and I’m fearful of the degradation of this Trail and other National Parks, Wilderness areas, and National Forests if H.R. 1505 is passed.
Hiking brings me joy. Like a modern day John Muir, if I may be so bold, the connection I feel with nature when walking in the woods leaves me feeling more free, more happy, more kind, more appreciative, and more connected to every last minutia of life on this land.
If this bill advanced into law, it would be a blow to the predecessors who established these National Parks, National Scenic Trails, and National Forests that are purposefully designed to be scenic, remote, protected, and secured from unnecessary development or degradation.
It would also threaten the freedom those of us who enjoy time spent outdoors feel when we hike.
I invite you to come hike with me. Yes, you.
We’ll go walk from the border at Campo along the Pacific Crest Trail, if you like. We’ll hike, observe the border agents’ command of the territory already, and see amazing beauty. Come on, one week. Let’s go!
Or, we will walk the Southern Appalachian Highlands, near my home in Western N.C. Either way, I want to share with you what makes these special places, special. How will you know if you don’t walk them, too?
Every hike is an offering to the time we have on this precious planet. You have the opportunity to make your offering when this bill comes up for a vote. Please, for the love of nature, do what is right and good for our parks and wild places by voting against H.R. 1505.
Let’s continue to experience these trails, parks, and forests, now and in the future, in the ways they were intended – free, open, beautiful – America.
I sent this letter to:
Rep. Heath Shuler
Sen. Richard Burr
Sen. Kay Hagan
President Barack Obama
* I made context changes to request a veto of this bill should it advance to President Obama to become law. I am mailing his letter today since the email function of the White House website prohibitively limits the length of a message.
Learn more about this bill here: http://wilderness.org/content/border-patrol-takeover-act