Rio Grande Barrios Want Court to Stop Helicopter Spraying

by Greg Moses

To seal the border would they kill the river? For the time being, US Border Patrol officials say they will not spray herbicides to kill the wild Carrizo Cane along the banks of the Rio Grande River. But wary residents along the river have filed a federal lawsuit to guarantee their rights to an ecologically safe border.

In lawsuit documents released on Wednesday, an association of residents who live near the Rio Grande River charge that the Border Patrol did not take a “hard look” before declaring that proposed helicopter spraying of herbicide would have “no significant impact” on the river environment.

Residents of the Barrio De Colores association say the August 2008 environmental impact statement issued by the border patrol “cannot stand” because the analysis of impacts was not adequate, reasonable alternatives were not fully considered, and residents were not adequately notified of their rights to participate in the environmental impact review.

Some recent news reports have villified the wild Carrizo Cane plants for their ability to grow tall and thick enough to serve as co-conspirators in border smuggling operations. But environmental scientist Dr. Jim Earhart argues that poisoning the plants is not necessary if goats and donkeys are allowed to eat them.

The plants have been considered pests in the valley since they were introduced by European settlers centuries ago. Spraying herbicides from helicopters, however, would only compound the damage done to the river by outside forces.

“The Rio Grande does not belong to the United States,” said Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center Jay Johnson-Castro at Wednesday’s outdoor press conference. “Nor does it belong to Mexico. It belongs to we the people.”

Residents of the Barrio De Colores association are not satisfied by this week’s assurances that the spraying has been postponed as a consequence of meetings between the border patrol and Mexican officials.

Says attorney Israel Reyna, “The day the court says it’s not going to happen, that’s when it’s not going to happen.”

[Sources: KGNS, FoxNews.com, and Barrio De Colores. Read the federal court petition here.]

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