Letter to the editor: Land exchange bill not good for tribes

To the editor:

I am a tribal member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and it's ironic how the Oak Flat Land Exchange bill was enacted into law (December 2014) through a rider on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote in 2009 to Sen. Ron Wydon (D-OR), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources committee, that this area was considered "unique and significant natural and cultural qualities of lands to be conveyed and the lands to be acquired. These lands of historical, cultural and environmental significance are adjacent to Apache Leap and Gaan Canyon are located on the Tonto National Forest. These areas are considered sacred places to the Apache and Yavapai tribes and are used to conduct religious ceremonies. Gaan Canyon is a perennial stream and an ecologically significant and riparian area."

Where is the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)? Where is the consultation with the San Carlos Apache Tribe? NEPA has statutes that set forth prerequisite obligations before a federal action is taken.

Executive order 13175 directs each federal agency to consult with American Indians that have substantial direct effects on one or more American Indian tribes relating to "consultation" and "coordination" with tribal governments.

The 2004 Forest Service manual requires that tribes must be consulted with by the Forest Service on matters that affect tribal rights and interests to ensure compliance with the laws and executive orders and especially with regards to established laws that protect areas of significance to Indian tribes that are located on National Forest Service System lands.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, along with other tribal governments, have raised concerns that the land exchange bill was contrary to crucial policies and executive orders that require Federal Land Management agencies to protect and preserve sites that are highly sacred to tribes. Therefore, Oak Flat has been the focus of historic government protection and it is important meaningful consultation with tribes is conducted to ensure tribal participation and especially to ensure proper protection of this site.

Resolution Copper Company continues to act with its supreme above-the-law behavior and sadly supported by Arizona Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, Congressman Paul Gosar and Sen. John McCain.

Resolution Copper Company proposes to use 18,000 per acre foot per year and 1 acre foot of water is 325,853 so that means that they will use 5,865,354,000, which is almost 6 billion gallons of water per year. Water is precious. Water is life. We must all do everything we can to also protect our water!

Finally, their action was definitely not in the public interest of American citizens across the Nation!

Sincerely,

Valerie O. Key

San Carlos, Arizona

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