Want to Visit This National Monument in Arizona? You'll Need an Armed Escort for That

Katie Pavlich

2/28/2012 10:51:00 AM - Katie Pavlich

As voters head to the polls in the Grand Canyon state to cast their votes for a GOP primary candidate, Arizona is still being overrun with illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. If you've ever wanted to visit Organ Pipe National Monument, located near Tucson along the U.S.-Mexico border, you'll need a heavily armed escort to do so. A decade ago, a park ranger was shot and killed in the park by armed illegal smugglers touting AK-47s. Just three years ago, the park started offering van tours escorted by rangers armed with semi-automatic weapons.

Since 2009, the park has offered van tours to the springs, as long as rangers armed with assault rifles go along to protect the visitors. Now, ten years after Eggle's murder, the park's leadership has decided to open up a portion of the closed areas to the public in March, citing improved safety conditions and a big increase in Border Patrol agents in the area.

"There is a chance we might have to cancel the tour if there's some sort of apprehension in progress," Park Ranger Karl Sommerhauser, wearing a bulky dark green bulletproof vest, told the tourists last week. Sommerhauser had an ear piece curling out of his left ear. "We expect you to take direction from Ken," he said sternly.

Ken Hires, an unflaggingly cheerful park ranger dressed in reassuringly normal-looking tan ranger clothes, bounded to the front of the room. Hires is what's called an interpretive ranger, which means he has no law enforcement duties and does not carry a weapon. ("I spent my five years in Vietnam. Enough shooting," he said later.) Hires explained that some law enforcement officers would be hiding in the hills and closely watching the two-hour nature hike, while another pair of armed rangers would follow the tourists closely from the ground. "They'll have M14s at hand," he told the group. "Don't be worried."

"You might see something interesting off the trail, but please don't go wandering off," Hires continued, explaining that it made it difficult for the rangers to track people from the hills. "Please be respectful that those people are putting themselves on the line for us."

This is happening in America and the park isn't the only area in Arizona under control of drug cartels and where Americans are in danger.

Outside of safety concerns, where are the environmentalists? Drug runners and illegal immigrants are destroying thousands of acres of Sonoran desert by creating new roads and foot paths wherever they choose, damaging the habit of the cacti and animals living there. Organ Pipe National Monument is a unique and special place that drug runners have no problem destroying. So called "environmentalists" don't seem to have a problem with the destruction either.