- Jim UpchurchCoronado National Forest Supervisor
Save Jaguars and Wildlife in Arizona: Stop the Rosemont Copper Project
Late last year, a jaguar was sighted in southern Arizona – the first jaguar confirmed in the U.S. in 3 years! But now, as jaguars are making their way back to Arizona, new mining exploration could destroy the very habitat that these big cats are seeking.
The proposed “Rosemont Copper Project” in the Coronado National Forest would irrevocably impact the Santa Rita mountain range and important riparian wildlife habitats downstream. The mine would take over 4,500-acres in this iconic, biologically diverse sky island mountain range, and fill entire canyons on our public lands with waste rock.
Apart from the 4,500-acre mine, roads and heavy truck traffic would further disrupt important wildlife corridors and likely increase wildlife road kills.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for this proposed project does not adequately analyze the potential impacts to sensitive wildlife habitat, water quality and quantity, air quality, climate change, or recreation-based economies. A supplemental analysis must be conducted that adequately analyzes and discloses these impacts in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
The comment deadline has been extended to Tuesday, January 31st. Be sure to send your message now and make sure that your voice is heard before the deadline.
- Coronado National Forest Supervisor
Late last year, we saw the first jaguar sighting in the United States in over three years in a mountain range right adjacent to the Santa Ritas. And as jaguars start to make their way back to the American Southwest, we need to protect the habitat they seek, not destroy it.
If the Rosemont Ranch is opened to a 4,500-acre copper mine, the prospects of jaguar recovery in this portion of its range will be significantly diminished. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) does not sufficiently analyze or disclose the proposed mine's potential impact to ongoing jaguar and ocelot recovery efforts in the region.
Other animals that have potential habitat in this area like ocelots, Chircahua leopard frogs, lesser long-nosed bats, Sonoran desert tortoises and yellow-billed cuckoo are also threatened greatly by the proposed Rosemont Mine. As much as 1,300-acres of riparian areas could be impacted by the mine - negatively impacting a wide range of wildlife that rely on these vital waterways for their survival.
The DEIS does not satisfy the federal mandate that a DEIS "shall include discussions of possible conflicts between the proposed action and the objectives of federal, regional, state, and local (and in the case of a reservation, Indian tribe) land use plans, policies and controls for the area concerned" (40 C.F.R. § 1502.16(c)). The DEIS does not satisfy this mandate because it fails to quantify or qualify direct conflicts between the proposed mine and 3,786 acres of Pima County's Conservation Lands System and associated Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
Situated upstream from important waterways such as Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek, the proposed mine stands to impact water quality and quantity well beyond the proposed mine site. The DEIS does not sufficiently quantify and disclose impacts to both surface and subsurface water quality and quantity. For instance, the DEIS does not analyze the estimated effects of potential subsurface dewatering in the Sonoita Plain.
Pollution from the mine could contaminate surface and subsurface waters that wildlife and human communities alike depend upon. In a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Army Corps of Engineers dated 01/05/2012 pertaining to Rosemont Copper's Application for a 404 permit, the EPA notes: "The proposed project site supports 101.6 acres of waters, including wetlands, in the Cienega Creek watershed, providing sediment transport and deposition downstream, energy dissipation, groundwater discharge, hydrologic and geochemical connectivity, and biological connectivity to the Santa Cruz River".
The DEIS clearly fails to adequately analyze these potential impacts upon "waters of the U.S." and "outstanding waters" designated by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. For example, impacts from new and/or improved roads and the proposed water pipeline on the west side of the Santa Ritas could detrimentally impact the Santa Cruz River, such as the potential downstream impacts from increased total suspended solids and other pollutants. The DEIS must adequately analyze potential impacts to these designated outstanding waters Traditional Navigable Water (TNW) segments.
Along with the 4,500-acres that the mine would sit on, many more acres would be overtaken by roads built or improved to access the mine. These roads, and the heavy truck traffic that would go along with them, could sever important wildlife corridors and increase wildlife road kills. The DEIS must adequately analyze potential impacts to habitat connectivity and increased direct mortality from road kills. Impacts to road safety from increased truck traffic, and projected socioeconomic impacts from anticipated increase in accidents, including wildlife/road kill related accidents, must also be quantified and disclosed.
Augusta Resources, the company who would operate the copper mine, has never managed a mine before. The Rosemont Mine would be their first venture into this sensitive business for the company -- a risky bet for such an important area for wildlife, recreation and local economies.
The precious Santa Rita mountain range would be devastated by mining development. The Santa Ritas attract many recreationists annually who come from far and wide to enjoy the beautiful vistas, to bird and wildlife watch. Intact forests and uninterrupted vistas support a sustainable service-based economy unlike the boom and bust cycle of mining.
An open pit mine would be devastating to the local economies that rely on healthy, intact ecosystems. To fulfill the statutory requirement to address the "maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity" (42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C)(iv)), the Forest Service should conduct and disclose a full ecosystem valuation for landscape and watershed that would be impacted by the project. In addition to ecosystem services, this analysis should include potential negative economic impacts to recreation and service based economies in the region.
Lastly, the DEIS fails to adequately analyze the effects the project would have on climate change over the life of the project, both in terms of greenhouse gas production as well as impacts to ecosystem and human adaptation (i.e. potential of the project's high water consumption to exacerbate future water shortages associated with projected hotter and drier conditions).
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for this proposed project does not adequately analyze the potential impacts to sensitive wildlife habitat and recovery efforts, water quality and quantity, air quality, climate change, or recreation-based economies. A Supplemental analysis must be conducted that adequately analyzes and discloses these impacts in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
I strongly urge you to stop the Rosemont Mine and protect this important wildlife habitat.
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