Community News - Access Fund Urges Action at Oak Flat

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Boulder, CO, June 22, 2005 - On May 25, 2005, Arizona’s Senator Kyl and Congressman Renzi introduced identical land exchange bills into Congress. According to the Access Fund this moves Resolution Copper Company (RCC) one step closer to destroying the publicly-owned Oak Flat area East of Phoenix resulting in the single largest loss of climbing ever.“These bills value the profits of a foreign mining company and discount a more responsible approach to environmental, as well as the recreational and health concerns of Arizonans and the many others who recreate at Oak Flat. Despite many promises of compromise these bills will allow RCC to push ahead with the destruction of Oak Flat and surrounding areas if they are passed,” says Jason Keith, Policy Director at the Access Fund. Keith continues, “there is a blank ’placeholder’ provision in the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2005 (SECTION 8(b)(4)) meant to address the preservation and replacement of climbing resources. Deficiencies concerning the lack of a recreational easement and omission of any discussion regarding the federally-protected land at Oak Flat in these bills make it clear that compromise will only come by applying pressure to our elected officials.”The Access Fund notes several deficiencies and omissions in the bills:There is no language maintaining any public access to the Oak Flat area. The bills fail to specifically identify any “replacement” climbing areas. The bills only direct the US Department of Agriculture to identify and develop alternate climbing sites on public land. Anyone could have at anytime developed the climbing on these public areas. Despite much discussion and promises from RCC, the bills fail to require RCC to provide any “replacement” climbing areas. Nonetheless, RCC has hired climbers to develop as-yet unidentified replacement climbing sites without any climbing community input. The land exchange bills provide no acknowledgement that Oak Flat has been federally protected from mining for over 50 years by executive order. This order – PLO 1229 – is still as valid today as it was in 1955. Oversight of this fact shows that the profits of a foreign mining company (RCC) outweigh recreation loss, environmental impact, and community interest. The bills were drafted through a closed process showing disregard for the public interest. There is no statement of water resource use, acquisition or disposal for the proposed mine at Oak Flat. No discussion of the enormous environmental and recreational loss, mountains of mining tailings, and associated pollution caused by this mine. The bills fail to require any environmental analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act which could consider the long-term implications of this massive proposed mine. The Access Fund is asking the outdoor community to write and call congress. “Over the next several weeks Congress needs to be convinced to specifically address this enormous loss to the climbing community, the environment, and other recreational users. These land exchange bills must include language that conserves climbing opportunities at Oak Flat and environs, and the land exchange bill must specifically identify any replacement climbing areas,” states Steve Matous, Access Fund’s Executive Director. “Your voice will make a difference and must be heard to stop these dangerous precedent-setting bills from passing unamended today – you won’t get another chance to help save this valuable resource.”The Access Fund and Friends of Queen Creek have consistently pushed for responsible mining techniques at Oak Flat that will allow RCC to make a profit while still maintaining some public access to Oak Flat and environs. The Access Fund is asking Congressional representatives to require Resolution Copper Company (RCC) to work with the Access Fund and Friends of Queen Creek to mitigate the loss of the unique public recreational resource at Oak Flat.For more information contact the Access Fund’s Policy Director Jason Keith at jason@accessfund.org.References:Senate version S. 1122: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.1122:House version H.R. 2618: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:H.R.2618:Access Fund’s letter writing campaign, congressional addresses and background: http://accessfund.org/display/page/AA/5Since 1990, the Access Fund has been the only national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. The Access Fund supports and represents over 1.6 million climbers nationwide in ALL forms of climbing; rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Five core programs support the mission on national and local levels: public policy, stewardship & conservation (including grants), grassroots activism, climber education, and land acquisition. For more information visit http://www.accessfund.org/ or http://www.boulderproject.org/.The Friends of Queen Creek (FoQC) is an organization that has been formed to preserve permanent recreational access to the Oak Flat campground area approximately four miles east of Superior, Arizona, in the Tonto National Forest currently threatened by potential copper mining activity. FoQC is not an anti-mining group but advocates multiple uses of our public lands. http://www.friendsofqueencreek.com