Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Endangered Jaguar confirmed again in Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson AZ

Photo: Male jaguar photographed by automatic
wildlife cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains on December 31, 2012, as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Department of Homeland Security-funded
jaguar and ocelot survey conducted by University of Arizona. One of three photos taken the same night in two different locations.

Male jaguar photographed by automatic wildlife cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains on December 31, 2012, as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Department of Homeland Security-funded jaguar and ocelot survey conducted by University of Arizona. One of three photos taken the same night in two different locations. Credit: USFWS/UA/DHS

Diverse coalition opposes US House bill for mining land exchange on Tonto National Forest near Superior AZ

Coalition opposes new "Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013" San Carlos Apache Tribe, Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition, Sierra Club's Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter and Arizona Mining Reform Coalition unite to oppose land swap.

SAN CARLOS, Ariz. -- US Representatives Paul Gosar (R, AZ District 4) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D, AZ District 1) re-introduced the "Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013," formerly H.R. 1904 in the 112th Congress.

"It is outrageous that members of our Arizona Congressional delegation support a land swap that benefits a foreign mega-mining giant over what's best for Arizona," said Terry Rambler, Chairman, San Carlos Apache Tribe. "Resolution Copper Mining (RCM), owned by Rio Tinto which does business with Iran, wants to blast a 7,000 foot deep, massive block-cave mine into sacred land in the Tonto National Forest. This land was set aside in 1955 by President Eisenhower for its religious, cultural, traditional, recreational and archaeological significance.

"We, along with many tribes, and recreational and environmental organizations, have opposed this land swap and the mine for more than seven years. Arizona cannot afford this deal. The mine would be an environmental disaster on an unprecedented scale and the job claims made by the copper company are unsubstantiated. As Apaches, we will continue to fight to preserve this land for all Arizonans."

The Chairman emphasized that the real cost of this bill is not jobs, but desecration and destruction of a significant sacred site. He also expressed concern that the extraction process would consume voluminous amounts of water. "Toxins released into groundwater by the block-cave mining process can contaminate our water supply throughout our region," Chairman Rambler noted.

Tribes throughout the U.S. have joined the San Carlos Apache Tribe to oppose the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013. The member Tribes of the Inter Tribal Councils of both Arizona and Nevada oppose this bill as does the National Congress of American Indians, Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, All Indian Pueblo Council of New Mexico, and United South and Eastern Tribes. Many Apache Tribes, including Fort McDowell Yavapai Apache, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Jicarilla Apache Tribe and Mescalero Apache Tribe are also opposed to this legislation, as is the Navajo Nation and others.

In addition to Tribal opposition, the proposed legislation is also strongly opposed by major environmental groups including the Access Fund, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, Tucson Audubon Society, Friends of Ironwood Forest, Earthworks, and Sierra Club. The land is used by recreationists, hikers, and campers and is one of the nation's premiere rock climbing sites.

Said Don Steuter, Conservation Chair for the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter, "This bill is nothing more than special interest legislation for a foreign mining corporation. It allows Rio Tinto to privatize public, sacred lands, including Oak Flat, which are of incalculable value to Native Americans, birders, rock climbers, and endangered species. And it does this by sidestepping a cornerstone of our environmental laws - the National Environmental Policy Act. We strongly oppose this bill and we are disappointed that some in our congressional delegation are once again trying to bypass the public and push through this bad deal. This legislation will harm our lands and provide little return to the American public."

RCM has lobbied Congress to enact this land swap since 2004. The legislation would mandate the Secretary of Agriculture to transfer more than 2,400 acres of the Oak Flat Campground and surrounding public land in the Tonto National Forest to RCM. RCM has indicated it will use the block-cave mining technique to extract the copper from Arizona public lands, a process that will destroy huge swaths of land in the Tonto National Forest and consume more than 40,000 acre feet of water yearly. In addition to the massive water withdrawal, the process will release toxins through the mining process that can contaminate and further deplete Arizona's precious and limited water supply.

RCM is owned by Rio Tinto PLC (United Kingdom) and BHP Billiton Ltd (Australia). Rio Tinto is partially owned by the Government of China. Because the proposal does not require that copper assets be kept in the U.S., China, and not the U.S., is positioned to be the chief beneficiary of the copper and other materials removed from the mine. Rio Tinto also does business with the Iran Foreign Investment Corporation, a wholly owned company of Iran. Rio Tinto and IFIC are partnering in a uranium mine in Africa.

Rio Tinto and RCM have opposed any changes to the bill that would require the corporation to hire Arizonans and use Arizona resources in the operation. In addition, the bill avoids both an environmental assessment and public interest determination.

"Resolution and its political allies don't tell you that the land exchange sidesteps critical safeguards provided by other federal laws," said Roy Chavez of Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition. "Arizona's senators and representatives should be cautious. If passed, this bill may leave Arizona with nothing but a massive hole in the ground and a huge cleanup bill costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars. That would be a most unfortunate legacy for Representatives Gosar and Kirkpatrick, as well as Senator McCain."

San Carlos Apache Tribe news release

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

255 orgs want Pres. Obama to strengthen wildlife protections

US groups representing millions of Americans call on Obama administration to strengthen Endangered Species Act protections for rare and vanishing wildlife across country

TUCSON — Citing diminishing Endangered Species Act protections for some of the nation’s rarest plants and animals, a coalition of 255 groups, representing millions of Americans, sent a letter to the secretaries of Interior and Commerce today calling for increased preservation of critical habitat and the reversal of current proposals likely to undermine the ongoing conservation of wide-ranging species like grizzly bears and gray wolves.

“For 40 years the Endangered Species Act has been wildly successful at saving and recovering species under its protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But to meet the complex challenges of climate change and an ever-growing human footprint, the Obama administration needs to step up and reverse the tide of recent policy changes that are weakening, instead of strengthening, some of our most effective Endangered Species Act protections.”

The letter, from conservation, recreation, employee, animal welfare, religious, business and women’s groups, asks the administration to withdraw a proposed policy that would sharply limit the number of species that qualify for protection under the Act; to strengthen protections for critical habitat; to keep better track of permitted harm to endangered species; and to find better ways to incentivize endangered species conservation by private landowners.

“The Endangered Species Act works to protect America’s rare wildlife,” said Daniel Patterson, ecologist and southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “But the act must not be weakened. It can and should be strengthened to better and faster serve our national commitment to wildlife conservation.”

Such policy changes would allow species to be protected when they are endangered in “significant portions of [their] range,” ensure that species and habitats are not lost through death by a thousand cuts, and increase landowner participation in wildlife conservation.

“The Endangered Species Act is a sound law that is recovering hundreds of species,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “But with more species needing its full protection every day, it’s critical that the administration renew its commitment to aggressive implementation of this landmark law. We hope the guardians of our wildlife and the health of our planet will take to heart the suggestions of the millions of Americans represented by these 250-plus groups.”

Groups on the letter include Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, Network of Spiritual Progressives, Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon chapters from around the country and many more.

adapted from CBD news release