Waldlaw Blog

Friday, August 14, 2009

Convicted for Trying to Save Lives

My fabulous office manager, Dannielle, brought this story to my attention yesterday, and I had to pass it on. An Arizona man has been convicted of intentionally littering in a federal wildlife preserve for leaving full plastic water bottles in the refuge -- located on the Arizona/Mexico border -- so undocumented men and women using that route to cross the border won't die of dehydration. The man, Walt Staton, was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to spend 300 hours picking up trash. According to the CNN story, the man is a member of the group No More Deaths. The group, according to their website, "is an organization whose mission is to end death and suffering on the U.S./Mexico border through civil initiative: the conviction that people of conscience must work openly and in community to uphold fundamental human rights." Given the frequent extreme heat along this border -- and the lack of natural sources of clean water -- one of their efforts is to put water bottles out so folks navigating that terrain can stay hydrated. Apparently, the last water-related death in the refuge was in June, 2008. A representative of the wildlife preserve where the water was left expressed sympathy for the cause of trying to prevent human deaths in the refuge, but said that a method other than leaving plastic bottles all over the refuge would need to be found so as to protect the animals living there as well. Refuge officials and No More Deaths are in direct discussions to find a compromise that is acceptable to both. In the meantime, Mr. Staton will be picking up an awful lot of garbage as punishment for the crime of trying to prevent people from dying of thirst in the desert. If that's a crime, I would love to know what passes for a good deed in Arizona....


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