I have lived in the Tumacacori/Tubac area for the past 33 years and had a real estate business in Tubac for a number of those years. I am a gray-haired old lady who still feels comfortable riding my horse or hiking in the Tumacacoris today. Yes, there is drug activity there, but there is drug activity everywhere in this area. A friend who lives over near the railroad tracks in Tubac watched a bunch of drug carriers hiking through the mesquites next to the railroad tracks just a few days ago. I have seen them while horseback-riding north of there, although mostly what I see are small groups of migrants heading north.
Illegal traffic is no reason to fail to protect this spectacular and fragile area. The Border Patrol might try actually putting people on the border, lots of them (on foot and horseback), to stop the illegal traffic before it gets into our country. Trying to stop the traffic once the people have entered this country is not even logical, and the current traffic north demonstrates this failure on the part of our attempts to capture migrants and smugglers.
It is beautiful country, and we are grateful we can hike it. We support the wilderness designation, and see it as an issue of land use rather than about criminal activity.
At the end of Banks' article, Edith Lowell sums it up best when she says we need border security. Instead of fighting against the designation, my opinion is that all of us should focus on demanding secure borders now.
Even if it were an accurate description of the Tumacacoris, does anyone seriously believe that the Department of Homeland Security--the only federal agency not required to submit a budget to Congress, one with unlimited funding and freedom to ignore any and all laws--will not do anything it wants to stop the flow of illegal people and drugs anywhere it wishes? No little wilderness-area designation or concern for any environmental or private-property issue has deterred them so far.
If Mr. Banks had bothered to do some on-the-ground research, he would have realized that the majority of the illegal activity takes place along the edges of the proposed wilderness, where the terrain is less formidable, and there is access to roads. This is also where the people in the article live; as far as I can tell, nobody who ventures into the heart of the wilderness was interviewed.
One final note: No matter what the product, as long as there's a demand, there will be a supply. We need to spend less on the interdiction of illegal substances and more on education, rehabilitation and legalization. If people quit using that crap, our problems will be greatly lessened.
Nicholas J. Bleser
I have worked and recreated extensively on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and have witnessed first-hand border impacts on wilderness areas, and the fact that designating an area as roadless and prohibiting mechanized vehicles really is not of much concern for those transporting people and drugs into the United States.
I cannot understand why we would overlay additional restrictions on an agency which is already unable to secure our borders or implement laws which we all know will not be enforced.
John Hays Jr.
Stopping marijuana traffic is not done by targeting the environment. Remove the criminal penalties on its sale and use, and the traffic will stop. It is not right in a democratic society to make it a crime if adults use marijuana by their own free choice.
The 1964 Wilderness Act recognizes "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area ... retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation." In the past few months, I have been out twice with a photographer friend hiking in the remote areas of the Tumacacori Highlands and taking pictures until the sun disappeared behind the hills. It is a very peaceful and privileged experience.
I suspect the concerns expressed in this article have some other purpose. Your readers should celebrate the strong support for this wilderness designation. The Tumacacori Highlands is one of the last unspoiled regions of Southern Arizona, and we ought to keep it that way.
Richard A. Calabro
The Libertarian solution to this problem would be to: 1) Decriminalize marijuana. What's the point of lugging marijuana into the United States if you can just buy it at Circle K instead? 2) Let laborers enter our country on Interstate 19 like everyone else. They don't take jobs natives want, and there's an obvious need for their services in this country; they find jobs easier than native job-seekers. Keeping the legal border crossings closed to them only forces them to pay coyotes, take risks and stay in the U.S. longer than they would otherwise.
The current policy fails to keep immigrants out but succeeds in creating a massive network of money, guns, trash and deaths in our desert. Ranchers, immigrant workers, ganja smokers, border patrol agents and our environment would all would all be safer and better off.