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Public to Have More Time for Fence Reaction

September 13, 2008

By BRADY MCCOMBS

Wildlife refuge comments taken through Sept. 12

The public will have 10 additional days to comment on a document from U.S. Fish and Wildlife that gives the Department of Homeland Security an initial green light to place five virtual fence towers on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge southwest of Tucson.

Written comments on the draft-compatibility determination, issued by Buenos Aires managers, will now be accepted through Sept. 12, said Jose Viramontes, Fish and Wildlife spokesman. The comment period was scheduled to close Tuesday.

The extension came in response to requests from members of the public who said they needed more time to review the document, Viramontes said. Defenders of Wildlife had officially requested more time in a letter written by Matt Clark, southwest representative.

In the letter, Clark said the document was not posted on the Web site until late in the day Aug. 22, a Friday, leaving only five working days to review the document. Labor Day was Monday.

Secondly, Clark argued that the public should be able to have access to the Final Biological Opinion on the entire Tucson West Project, a plan for 57 virtual fence towers along 81 miles of Arizona’s border with Mexico between Sasabe and a point south of Sierra Vista. That report hasn’t been released yet.

Viramontes said officials hope to have the biological opinion out before the close of the extended comment period but didn’t guarantee it. If it’s not out, they believe members of the public have enough information in the draft-compatibility determination to make educated comments.

In the draft-compatibility determination, released Aug. 22, Buenos Aires managers decided the potential long-term benefits of the towers – reducing illegal-immigrant traffic and associated Border Patrol activity on the refuge – outweighed the expected harm, including loss of habitat at tower sites, and wildlife and habitat disturbance during construction, maintenance and operation, the report says.

The surveillance towers are capable of viewing a 360-degree area for 24 hours a day with a radius of about six miles, the report said.

TO READ THE REPORT . . .

You can read the full compatibility determination online at: www.fws.gov/southwest/ refuges

Or you can request a copy by calling the offices of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge at 1-520-823-4251. Copies are also available at the Green Valley and Arivaca public libraries.

Comments about the report can be sent to the refuge via:

E-mail: Sally_Gall@fws.gov or sent by:

Fax: 1-520-823-4247

Mail: Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 109, Sasabe, AZ 85633

* Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com.

Originally published by BRADY MCCOMBS, ARIZONA DAILY STAR.

(c) 2008 Arizona Daily Star. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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