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Bill threatens public access to popular Oak Flat Campground and paves the way for underground mine


PHOENIX — Twenty-three state and national groups have sent a letter to the Arizona Congressional delegation urging them not to introduce a land exchange bill that would allow a foreign-owned mining company to mine under Oak Flat Campground, a popular recreation area near Phoenix.  The groups argue that not only does this land exchange bill threaten an important recreation and cultural area, it also sets a chilling precedent for other areas currently withdrawn from mining due to their unique recreational, ecological or cultural values.

“We urge the Arizona delegation to keep public recreational and cultural areas such as Oak Flat protected for future generations,” said Roger Featherstone of Earthworks.

Resolution Copper Company (RCC) is planning a massive block-cave mine and seeks to acquire the campground and the surrounding public lands for its use through this land exchange bill.  If they succeed, the campground and an additional 2,300 acres of the Tonto National Forest will become private property and the public would lose access to some of the most spectacular outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing areas.  In addition, RCC seeks to circumvent all federal laws governing hardrock mining.  These public laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), not only allow public comment on any mine proposal, but ensure protection for other uses of the land, environmental protection, and public health and safety.

Arizona recreational enthusiasts have joined with local and national environmental organizations to protect this unique area from mining. The area is a world-class natural resource for birding, hunting, hiking, camping, rock climbing, bouldering, canyoneering, picnicking, responsible OHV driving, and other recreational uses. On the eastern border of Oak Flat is Devil's Canyon, one of the crown jewels of Arizona s state trust lands with some of the finest remaining riparian habitat in the state. The campground and surrounding areas is also an important cultural site for the Western Apaches.

“We hope our congresspeople will recognize that Oak Flat provides bigger benefits to Arizonans as a recreational site than as a toxic, polluting mine site,” said Roger Featherstone.

Groups which signed on to the letter include the Access Fund, the Arizona Native Plant Society, the National Wildlife Federation, Friends of Queen Creek, EARTHWORKS and Maricopa Audubon Society.

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