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Arizona State Office
Release Date: 03/05/14
Contacts: Dennis Godfrey, (602) 417-9499    
  David Scarbrough, (623) 580-5651    

BLM's Project Daylight Seeks to Stymie Smugglers by Removing Vegetation along I-8

Crews from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), have begun clearing and trimming brush and trees from along portions of Interstate 8 east of Gila Bend.

The operation, called Project Daylight, is intended to take away cover used by human and drug smugglers to hide and drop contraband along the I-8 right-of-way. The smugglers make their way to the interstate where they transfer cargo to vehicles for further distribution.

Crews will be working over the next two weeks to prune or remove dense vegetation over a six-mile area in three sections from Milepost 126, east of Gila Bend, to Milepost 142. Motorists in the area should be aware of possible shoulder closures and intermittent lane closures.

The area where the work is being done is in the Sonoran Desert National Monument, which encompasses 487,000 acres bisected by I-8. Project Daylight is a tool to discourage illegal activities that damage the natural resources within the Monument.

 The BLM has a fourfold mission in Project Daylight:

  • Reduce threats to the public by improving visibility along I-8
  • Eliminate hiding places for people involved in criminal activities
  • Make it easier for law enforcement officers to suppress criminal activity
  • Improve and maintain natural resources damaged by illegal activity.

“We are pleased to be cooperating with ADOT on this project. We see it as an element of our strategic plan to provide a safe environment for the public, protect the resources of or public lands, and work cooperatively on these issues with other agencies,” said Ray Suazo, BLM Arizona State Director.

An eight-person crew will be pruning and removing trees and brush. A second crew, composed of inmates from the Lewis Prison Complex, will gather the vegetation for dispersal or removal. The follow-up crew will also remove roadside trash and debris left by smugglers. The crew will repair the right-of-way fence, where needed.

BLM staff will be monitoring the cleaned-up areas to determine the effects on criminal activity and trash dumping along I-8. Long-term plans are to prune or remove vegetation along I-8 from Milepost 119, near Gila Bend, east to Milepost 161, which is south of Stanfield. The agencies have not established a schedule for the expanded work.

The BLM and ADOT cooperated in a similar pilot project in 2011, in which vegetation was removed from about 200 feet near I-8 Milepost 150.

Project Daylight is conducted in conjunction with BLM’s Operation ROAM (Reclaim Our Arizona Monuments), an ongoing effort to combat border-related criminal activities and to protect and restore natural resources from damages caused by the criminal activities. One aspect of ROAM is to bring in a contingent of BLM law enforcement rangers for periodic two-week “surges.” During those surges, youth crews and other BLM workers engage in reclaiming illegal roads and trails, cleaning up trash, and other natural resource protection activities.  

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Last updated: 03-05-2014