Urgent Request on Oak Flat for President Biden to Protect Native American Sacred Site
On February 9, more than 200 conservation, Indigenous, religious and business groups sent a letter urging President Biden to withdraw the approval of a land exchange that would trade away Oak Flat, an Apache sacred site on the Tonto National Forest in central Arizona, to international mining company Rio Tinto. In the final days of the Trump administration, the U.S. Forest Service issued a rushed, flawed environmental analysis that would allow international mining conglomerate Rio Tinto to destroy Oak Flat with a massive proposed copper mine.
The land exchange, after failing as a stand-alone bill a dozen times in Congress, was authorized by a midnight rider attached to an unrelated 2015 defense spending bill. The rider mandated that the land exchange be completed no more than 60 days after publication of a final environmental impact statement (FEIS), no matter what its conclusions or how much damage the project would do.
The FEIS was rushed to completion a year ahead of schedule on Jan. 15, which set a 60-day clock ticking for the deadline to complete the land exchange (March 11). The groups are asking the Biden administration to withdraw the environmental analysis and take a closer look at the devastating damage the proposed copper mine would do to Oak Flat’s irreplaceable cultural and ecological resources. NATHPO urges you to reach out to your Senators and Congressmen ASAP asking them to support a reintroduced Save Oak Flat Act, and also to send your own letter urging the USDA to rescind the EIS. Here is NATHPO’s letter you may borrow from; you may also send your letter to me and I will ensure it gets to the right place during this time of transition.