“I have learned to live with trash,” said fifth-generation Arizona rancher Jim Chilton.He saw his once-beautiful ranch, just a few miles from the border with Mexico, is now dotted with clusters of crushed trees and cactus, whole hillsides have been turned into charred eyesores, years worth of his award-winning conservation projects obliterated — and the whole thing is littered with trash, tons and tons of trash. And some of the trash was dead bodies.
Chilton had the misfortune of settling in the path of what would become a dangerous drug- and human-smuggling route on the U.S.-Mexican border, parallel with the notorious Peck Canyon Corridor.
“I’ve got 30,000 to 40,000 illegal aliens coming right through the ranch every year, and the Forest Service says each one leaves about eight pounds of trash. That means 100 tons of trash. Some cows eat the plastic bags and about 10 head a year die a slow and painful death. At $1,200 a head, that means we lose $12,000 a year to trash.”
Chilton saw southern Arizona not as the headline-grabbing political flashpoint of the Justice Department’s failed “Fast and Furious” guns-to-smugglers tracking project, but as the land-grabbing opportunism of Obama’s resource management agencies and, sadly, the failure of the U.S. Border Patrol to secure that bloody line separating the United States from Mexico.
The land-grabbing chapter of the trash story has gone largely unnoticed, but surfaced last year when the Bureau of Land Management proposed to shut down target shooting on 490,000 acres in the Sonoran Desert National Monument — and in large swaths of other public lands as well.
The reason? Monument manager Richard Hanson claimed shooters were leaving trash at the shooting sites, an outrageously trumped up excuse, but Hanson’s claim couldn’t be refuted at the time.
The BLM had closed 400,000 acres of publicly owned, national monument lands across three states to recreational shooting activities in 2010, labeling recreational shooting as a resource-harming activity and a public safety threat.
That was a clear signal showing that the SDNM move was just another step in Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s obnoxious “lock-it-up-and-kick-’em-out” plans that have drawn the ire of Congress.
Arizona’s Republican Rep. Jeff Flake plans to introduce the Recreational Shooting Protection Act this week, which will allow for greater congressional oversight over the closures of these target shooting lands.
A government employee stepped forward on condition of anonymity to say, “I visited Ironwood National Monument in 2007 with two BLM employees. The place was absolutely devastated by illegals, yet all the BLM men wanted to talk about was the shooting ranges, and find trash that would fit the shooter profile. They were just trying to blame it on gun owners who use the shooting ranges.”
The source said that BLM’s own documents show they not only know where the trash really comes from, but they’re also the government’s official trash tracker. Anyone with Web access can find BLM documents titled, “Southern Arizona Project to Mitigate Environmental Damages Resulting From Illegal Immigration.” It’s an annual compilation of all the illegal alien trash and all of BLM’s tracking and cleanup projects.
Even with the flow of illegals slowed by the bad economy, Flake said, “Unfortunately, the trash situation is probably going to continue until we can get enough resources and manpower in the Tucson Sector to gain operational control over the border.”
Jim Chilton isn’t the only one who’s learned to live with trash.
(Photo: Tijuana River Valley)