The passing of Senator John McCain is a great loss for the state of Arizona and for our nation. He was a tireless advocate for democracy, for veterans and for cooperation in service to country. Senator McCain served and represented the people of Arizona for more than three decades with a level of dedication and dignity that is an inspiration to us all.
The Resolution Copper family is proud of having Senator John McCain’s support, which has been instrumental in moving the proposed mine forward. We’re proud that he championed the proposed mine. He shared our belief that the mine will have major economic benefits for the state of Arizona and for the communities of the Pioneer Mining District. Senator McCain listened to the people who live in the region, he heard their overwhelming support for the mine, and he took action on their behalf. His support for the project as an economic engine for Arizona never wavered. He continued to speak out in favor of the mine, which he knew represented the wishes of a majority of his constituents.
Senator McCain’s leadership resulted in bipartisan support in Congress for the legislation to facilitate a land exchange between the Tonto National Forest and Resolution Copper, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2014. The Resolution Copper land exchange is one of more than 80 land bills that were part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Prior to its passing, amendments were made to the bill based on testimony of San Carlos Apache Tribe representatives, including the requirement that a full environmental impact statement (EIS) must be completed and published before the land transfer can take place. Of all the land bills included in the legislation package, it was the only one that had this requirement.
The 5,300 acres of land that will become public in exchange for 2,400 acres of land to become private have high ecological value. The lands becoming public were chosen by environmental organizations that identified the private land as valuable to put into conservation under federal stewardship. They include one of the only grassland areas in the state, to be administered as part of the Las Cienegas Natural Conservation Area. The lands to become public also include approximately 3,000 acres of riparian ecosystem along the Lower San Pedro River in Pinal County, to be managed under the San Pedro National Conservation Area, home to a number of threatened and endangered bird species such as the yellow-billed cuckoo and southwest willow flycatcher.
Under Senator McCain’s leadership, the land exchange also incorporated a provision for the permanent preservation of Apache Leap by creating a Special Management Area (SMA) that protects it. As part of the exchange, Resolution Copper will contribute 142 acres of privately held land and forgo 697 acres of unpatented mining claims that will become part of the 839-acre Apache Leap SMA. The US Forest Service (USFS) finalized its Apache Leap Special Management Plan in January 2018.
The Apache Leap SMA protects and preserves the natural character of this unique topography and its ecology, habitats and scenery by prohibiting mining, livestock grazing and overnight camping within its boundaries.
Thanks to Senator McCain’s efforts, under the land exchange, the USFS continues conducting comprehensive government-to-government consultations with Arizona Native American tribes to find mutually acceptable measures to address their concerns. Specific measures were taken within the Apache Leap SMA to accommodate tribal concerns regarding public access, grazing and other protections for locations of cultural importance. Resolution Copper is already implementing the mutually agreed upon measures required in the land exchange bill with Native American tribes. One of the mutually acceptable measures is employment opportunities and job training. Resolution Copper is currently funding an ongoing Tribal Monitor training program that employs local Native Americans working with the Forest Service to identify and preserve cultural resources on land that could be affected by the proposed mine. Their work includes baseline data collection and field surveying, among other components.
So far, 20 people have been trained as Tribal Monitors, and the next round of training is scheduled in October. This pilot program can serve as a model to be replicated throughout the country, and as part of the land exchange, it will be connected to Senator McCain’s legacy. Native American Tribes have a voice in the environmental impact assessment process, and that was made possible by the passage of the land exchange legislation, which Senator McCain facilitated.
We are deeply thankful for his honorable service to the United States and to the state of Arizona. Senator John McCain will always be remembered as a true patriot and champion of freedom who earned his reputation as a political maverick by virtue of his commitment to the ideals that define America and transcend political differences.
We can all aspire to the courage he showed as a Navy pilot and as a public servant who showed us how to put the greater good above our own interests. Senator McCain was always focused on trying to find solutions that help the most people, and his support of Resolution Copper exemplifies that greater good approach. He was always guided by a focus on shared benefits.
Senator John McCain served the people of Arizona and the United States with honor at all times. He will be sorely missed and never forgotten.
Contributed by Jonathan Ward on behalf of Resolution Copper