Patagonia News with Watchdog Pete © Kathi A Noaker

June–January 2015 Patagonia News

Local, State, and National News that affects the Patagonia, Arizona Area

Click on the headline to go to the story. We post relevant Patagonia news regularly!

June-January 2015 Patagonia News

 

National Forest suggests road changes in Nogales District

With about 138 miles of unauthorized dirt roads and trails within its jurisdiction of the Coronado National Forest, the Nogales Ranger District is seeking a better transportation management plan. With 352,280 acres, the Coronado National Forest’s Nogales Ranger District covers about 35 to 40 percent of Santa Cruz County’s 792,320 acres, including the Atascosa, Pajarito, Santa Rita and Tumacacori mountains. It also extends into Pima County northwest of Sonoita and around Arivaca. Nogales International 6/30/2015

 

Paton on the Fly

My name is Sandy Marin and I am the summer 2015 intern for the Tucson Audubon Society. I had the opportunity to visit the Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia this past week and it’s definitely one of my new favorite places. The property is quaint, charming, and teeming with life. During the visit with the restoration crew, our goal was to landscape, remove invasive species, and conduct general repairs. I couldn’t say that I minded doing yard work when the context of the work entailed spending time in a hotspot for bird diversity. Tucson Audubon Blog 6/29/2015

 

Supreme Court won’t hear Renzi’s conviction appeal

Former Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi is going to remain in federal prison. Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld his conviction on charges of extortion, fraud, conspiracy and racketeering. He began serving his three-year prison term in February. Arizona Daily Star 6/29/2015

 

Mining exploration causing permanent damage in Ring of Fire, Wildlands League says

Photos released Monday by the Wildlands League are proof that mining activity is causing permanent damage in a fragile ecosystem in northern Ontario, according to the environmental group. CBC/Radio-Canada 6/29/2015

 

Grijalva Reintroduces Package of Bills that Preserve, Protect and Restore Arizona Public Land, Citing Economic and Cultural Benefits

Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva introduced a package of three Arizona public land bills yesterday – the Sonoran Desert Heritage Act, the Southern Arizona Public Lands Protection Act and the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area Act – that mark the latest step in his ongoing efforts to preserve natural and cultural resources throughout the state. Grijalva will be in Arizona next week and available for media inquiries. Natural Resources Committee News Release 6/26/2015

 

Pronghorn antelope numbers on rise near Sonoita, Patagonia

After four years of comprehensive, science-based management efforts, biologists at the Arizona Game and Fish Department are encouraged by the birth of 84 pronghorn antelope fawns this year and increased pronghorn distribution throughout Game Management Units 34A, 34B and 35A in southeastern Arizona. In recent ground surveys conducted with the Arizona Antelope Foundation, the Arizona Game and Fish Department counted 48 bucks, 131 does and 84 fawns during a two-day (June 13-14) ground survey near Sonoita and Patagonia. Arizona Game and Fish News Release 6/24/2015

 

Land development seriously impacting San Pedro

A regional assessment of the Madrean Archipelago, released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, cites development and water use as key stressors that can alter the local ecology. Sierra Vista Herald 6/22/2015

 

Arizona tourism enjoying nice rebound, report says

Arizona tourism reached record levels last year amid an improving economy, creative marketing — and staying off “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” New figures Monday show 40.7 million people visited the state and stayed at least one night. That’s a 4.1 percent increase over 2013. And international tourism is up 6.3 percent, hitting 5.7 million people. Most of the travelers came from Mexico, though nearly 900,000 Canadians decided to visit the Grand Canyon State, too. All of that means money — lots of it. Arizona Daily Star 6/22/2015

 

Opponents renew fight against Superior copper mine

Opponents of a planned copper mine near Superior, slated to become one of the largest in North America, are renewing efforts to kill the project. U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, with the support of fellow Arizona Democrat Rep. Ruben Gallego, introduced a bill Wednesday to block the federal land exchange sought by mining company Resolution Copper to open the mine. Arizona Republic 6/17/2015

 

Steller: Benson project reveals state’s weakness on water

“Without a doubt,” he [Gov Ducey] went on to say, “Arizona is a national leader — if not the nation’s leader — in proactive water conservation and management.” True enough, and yet a 45-minute drive southeast of Tucson shows how tenuous that title is — and how tempting short-term thinking about water remains. A 28,000-home development in Benson could add up to 70,000 more people to the town’s current population of around 5,000, all of them dependent on the pumping of groundwater. Arizona Daily Star 6/13/2015

 

Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water’

Drought or no drought, Steve Yuhas resents the idea that it is somehow shameful to be a water hog. If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water. People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.” Washington Post 6/13/2015

 

Arizona author shares love of ranch that prompted land preservation sale

On Friday, June 5, Lisa Greene Sharp was the guest speaker at a Central Arizona Land Trust event to highlight the importance of protecting Arizona’s natural resources. A gifted storyteller, Sharp shared with some 50 people the origins of the San Rafael Ranch, officially known as the San Rafael de la Zanja Land Grant. Her maternal grandfather, Col. William Greene purchased from a cattle baron in 1903. The Daily Courier 6/12/2015

 

‘Get Outdoors Day’ coming to Parker Canyon Lake

Parker Canyon Lake is once again the setting for a “National Get Outdoors Day” celebration. It’s set to run 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 13. Weekly Bulletin 6/10/2015

 

SC County joins interstate system for bikes

A national bike route is set to cut through the northeast corner of Santa Cruz County, connecting the local area with a route that stretches from Jacksonville, Fla. to San Diego. Weekly Bulletin 6/10/2015

 

“Miracle May” in Colorado boosts Lake Powell June runoff

An unexpected, late series of storms in Colorado gave a big boost to the spring-summer runoff leading into Lake Powell at the Utah border. While the extra burst of runoff in May and early June reduces the chance of shortages for the Central Arizona Project in 2016, it’s not enough to help the $4 billion water project avoid shortages the following year, a top CAP official said Monday. Arizona Daily Star 6/8/2015

 

How your neighbors may be turning you into an environmentalist

Recently, psychological and social science research has homed in on a number of factors that seem to predispose people to developing a “green” value system or world view. Washington Post 6/8/2015

 

Unions to end contract with Tucson-based Asarco

Unions representing about 2,000 hourly workers of Tucson-based copper producer Asarco LLC have put the company on 15-day notice that they intend to terminate their labor contract. “After two years of negotiations, including meetings this week, too many of Asarco/Grupo Mexico management’s unfair, discriminatory and one-sided proposals remain on too many issues to continue with the status quo,” the message to union members said. Arizona Daily Star 6/5/2015

 

Oak Flat Protesters Plan March on Washington to Protest Apache Land Grab

Now Native American protesters from around the country will gather there en masse in the third week of June to seek repeal of a law that a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece termed “a new low in congressional corruption.” Indian Country Today 6/4/2015

 

Wildcat Silver Changes Name to AZ Mining Inc.

Wildcat Silver Corporation (TSX: AZ) announces it has changed its name to AZ Mining Inc. The name change to AZ Mining Inc. reflects both the Company’s focus on its Hermosa property located near Patagonia in southern Arizona and the poly-metallic nature of the mineralization on the two current projects. The Company’s shares will commence trading under the symbol AZ on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday June 5, 2015. CNW 6/4/2015

 

Town explores its water rights

Water is once again on the mind of the Town of Patagonia, especially in regard to defending it. As a result, during the town council’s May 27 regular meeting, lawyer Steve Weatherspoon was invited to discuss the current status of Patagonia’s water rights. Weekly Bulletin 6/3/2015

 

Arizona-Mexico Border Patrol Bill And Mine Provoke Protests Against John McCain In Tucson

A small group of protesters took to the streets outside of Sen. John McCain’s Tucson, Arizona, office on Wednesday, banging drums and decrying two of the senator’s recent actions in Washington that affect the borderlands and Native American reservations. There were about 70 to 75 protesters, all members of environmental and tribal rights groups. International Business Times 6/3/2015

 

B.C. mine tailings ponds pose serious risk to water sources: report

Thousands of kilometres of salmon-rich waterways and the drinking water of hundreds of communities in central and Northern British Columbia are at risk of mining-related environmental disasters, a new report warns. Globe and Mail 6/3/2015

 

Arizona hopes for more control of its water as drought deepens in West

Arizona wants more control of its water resources as the ongoing drought in Western states brings the likelihood of further shortages to the region, a state official testified Tuesday. Tom Buschatzke, the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, also told a Senate committee that any solution to the region’s water woes should “benefit the entire Colorado River system rather than any one particular Colorado River water user.” Cronkite News 6/2/2015

 

Local washes stay regulated under new EPA rule

Dozens if not hundreds of tributaries of major rivers and streams in Southern Arizona and across the Southwest remain regulated and protected from damage by development under the federal Clean Water Act. That is probably the most important regional impact of new federal rules, approved last week, governing how the government will manage watersheds. Just the fact that “no change” is an important development demonstrates how controversial and hard-fought these new rules have been. Arizona Daily Star 5/31/2015

 

Selling Off Apache Holy Land

Despite protections, in December 2014, Congress promised to hand the title for Oak Flat over to a private, Australian-British mining concern. A fine-print rider trading away the Indian holy land was added at the last minute to the must-pass military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. By doing this, Congress has handed over a sacred Native American site to a foreign-owned company for what may be the first time in our nation’s history. New York Times 5/29/2015

 

Alaska Supreme Court backs group fighting Pebble mine

In two unanimous decisions, the Alaska Supreme Court on Friday came down solidly on the side of a group fighting the proposed Pebble mine, backing efforts by two Alaska icons, former first lady Bella Hammond and state constitutional convention delegate Vic Fischer, to give the public a voice in mineral exploration. Alaska Dispatch News 5/29/2015

 

Restored Clean Water Act protections will benefit millions of Arizonans

Water is obviously a precious resource, essential to all those activities and more in Arizona. No economic activity could occur without it. We need to be protective of the limited amount of water we do have. That’s why the May 27 announcement by top federal officials at the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to restore Clean Water Act protections is such a big deal. Arizona Capitol Times 5/28/2015

 

Multiple wildfires break out in Eastern S.C. County

Firefighters were scrambling to deal with multiple wildland blazes that broke out across eastern Santa Cruz and Pima counties last week. Weekly Bulletin 5/27/2015

 

Obama administration issues rule to protect Arizona waterways from pollution

Today, top Obama administration officials announced a final rule to restore Clean Water Act safeguards to small streams and headwaters that have been vulnerable to development and pollution for nearly ten years. Loopholes created by Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 had left 94 percent of Arizona’s small streams, washes, headwaters, wetlands, and other waterways unprotected from pollution under the law. Environment Arizona News Release 5/27/2015

 

California looks to Australia for tips on surviving drought

California has turned to the world’s driest inhabited continent for solutions to its longest and sharpest drought on record. Australia, the land poet Dorothea Mackellar dubbed “a sunburnt country,” suffered a torturous drought from the late 1990s through 2012. Now Californians are facing their own “Big Dry,” and looking Down Under to see how they coped. Tucson News Now 5/26/2015

 

Kirkpatrick announces she’s running against McCain for Senate

Ann Kirkpatrick announced Tuesday morning she will challenge John McCain for a Senate seat in 2016. She kicked off her campaign with an email to supporters, a new website and a YouTube video, all using her boots as a branding icon. Kirkpatrick’s boots played a major role in her campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives last year. Kirkpatrick is serving her third term in Congress. She won in 2014 with about 53 percent of the votes in Arizona’s Congressional District 1, which includes Marana and Oro Valley. Arizona Daily Star 5/26/2015

 

Farm water to city taps: It won’t be cheap

To save the Colorado River and keep Western farming going at the same time, urban dwellers will have to pay. That’s the conclusion of an expert who helped lead a new federal study on what to do about the Colorado. The river, whose supply is threatened by drought and overuse, today serves most of Tucson’s drinking water and supplies water for a total of 35 million to 40 million people living in seven states. Arizona Daily Star 5/24/2015

 

Good News for the Nation’s Waterways

The Clean Water Act, one of the more successful of the landmark environmental statutes enacted under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, was for 30 years broadly interpreted by the courts and regulators as shielding virtually all the waters of the United States from pollution and unregulated development — seasonal streams and remote wetlands, as well as lakes and large navigable waters. The basic idea was that small waters have some hydrological connection to larger watersheds and should be protected against pollution that would inevitably find its way downstream, threatening ecosystems and drinking water. New York Times 5/22/2015

 

Fight Continues to Wrest Control of Sacred Site Back From Copper Mining Co.

This one appears headed for a 12-round title bout as the San Carlos Apache tribe continues its battle with Resolution Copper Co. over the issue of sacred land at Oak Flats. The mining company wants to get started on its $61.4 billion operation. Tribal opposition to prevent that from happening is gathering strength. Indian Country Today 5/21/2015

 

New Mexico ranchers, farmers sue over jaguar border habitat

The setting aside of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in New Mexico was an “unlawful, arbitrary and capricious” action by federal authorities and needs to be overturned, a new lawsuit says. In court papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association and New Mexico Federal Lands Council said the decision by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set aside public and private land for the cat would place unnecessary regulations on landowners. Arizona Daily Sun 5/21/2015

 

2,000-acre brush fire burning near Sonoita

A 2,000-acre brush fire was burning Wednesday night near Sonoita and closed part of Arizona 83, officials said. The Oak Tree fire was burning grass and brush near milepost 42. It was burning about 10 miles north of Sonoita. Arizona Daily Star 5/21/2015

 

Town of Patagonia Opens Center to Draw Tourists

The town of Patagonia has opened a visitor center that locals say is helping build tourism and the economy in the small Santa Cruz County community. The Patagonia Regional Information Center opened in March on the town’s main thoroughfare to assist tourists and encourage more visitors in Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin. Arizona Public Media 5/20/2015

 

Park’s mariachi festival draws a big crowd

An estimated 1,300 people from Santa Cruz County and beyond descended on Lake Patagonia last Saturday for the state park’s annual Mariachi Festival. Park manager Colt Alford said more than 800 visitors came in on day-use permits and another 500 or so had camped overnight. Weekly Bulletin 5/20/2015

 

Game and Fish plans anti-vegetation stocking

The Arizona Game and Fish Department says it will stock approximately 600 eight-to-12-inch white amurs at Parker Canyon Lake this month to better manage aquatic vegetation there. White amurs are a species of carp that feeds exclusively on, and are highly effective at reducing, submerged aquatic vegetation, AZGFD said. Weekly Bulletin 5/20/2015

 

International Port Grows As Gateway for Mexican Produce

Most days, up to 1,600 trucks pass through the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. Many are loaded with fresh produce grown in the fields of western Mexico, accounting for more than a third of all produce imports from the U.S.’s southern neighbor. “Some of the largest commodities we see by volume are going to be the watermelons, squashes, tomatoes, cucumbers,” said Anne Crowther, an agricultural specialist with Customs and Border Protection. It amounts to billions of pounds of produce each year and that number is growing. Arizona Public Media 5/18/2015

 

UA Poll: Arizonans Concerned About Global Warming

A large majority of Arizona residents believe the world’s temperature has been rising and that global warming will be a serious problem for the nation if nothing is done to curb it, according to a survey conducted by the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment and Stanford University. UA News 5/18/2015

 

Sightseeing at an open pit mine in Arizona copper country

The mines are still in business, yet towns that once flourished are now mostly gone. High Country News 5/17/2015

 

So far, Santa Cruz County escapes crushing drought

While California residents struggle through a record drought and Tucsonans fret over a drying Colorado River, migratory birds splash around the new wetlands in the Meadow Hills area and the area’s underground aquifers are flush with water. Nourished by the Santa Cruz River and recent heavy rains, Santa Cruz County residents are dodging the worst of the drought that spurred the state of California to issue water-use restrictions last week and the federal government to declare Pima and four other Arizona counties drought disaster areas in March. Nogales International 5/15/2015

 

Earth Movers

Republicans flunk Sierra Club’s report card, want to grab federal land to cut down trees and mine hillsides. The Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club released its annual report card on the Arizona Legislature last week—and all but one of the GOP lawmakers flunked, meaning they voted the right way on two or fewer bills the Sierra Club was using for their rankings. (Republican Rep. Noel Campbell of Prescott got a D, along with Democrat Rep. Barbara McGuire.) All Southern Arizona Democrats got A grades, with the exception of state Rep. Bruce Wheeler, who got a B. Tucson Weekly 5/14/2015

 

Wildcat uncovers high-grade ore body

Wildcat Silver Corporation says it has found a significant high-grade ore body as the result of a drilling operation that the Canada-based mining company conducted in the Patagonia Mountains over the past five years. Wendy Russell, coordinator of the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance, maintains that the cumulative effect of the Wildcat Silver mine along with other proposed mines in the Patagonia Mountains will jeopardize Patagonia’s local water supply and wildlife. Weekly Bulletin 5/13/2015

 

Roadside birding area preened by DOC crew

While not forgotten by bird watchers, the Patagonia Roadside Rest Area has apparently fallen off the radar by those who are supposed to be keeping it clean. Located 3.5 miles south of the Patagonia town limits on State Route 82, the Patagonia Roadside Rest Area is a quarter-mile length of pavement that allows drivers to turn off the highway and park for a rest in a shaded area. While the once-nesting rose-throated becard has not been seen since 2006-07, the thick-billed kingbird still continues to be spotted amongst the willows and sycamores during the late spring and summer months. Weekly Bulletin 5/13/2015

 

SUPERFUND: Judges incredulous at EPA’s slow pace on cleanup regs

Federal judges today lost all patience with U.S. EPA when considering why it has taken more than 30 years to fulfill a congressional mandate requiring large industries like hardrock mining to assure the agency they can cover the cost of cleaning up their pollution. Greenwire 5/12/2015

 

Will restored creeks thrive if Rosemont gets OK?

Empire Gulch and Cienega Creek are environmental success stories, though their futures are uncertain if the Rosemont Mine is built. The gulch and creek are centerpieces of the 42,000-acre Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, a federally owned grasslands site that is both a working cattle ranch and home to eight endangered and threatened species. But the proposed Rosemont Mine could change all that — the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management and Pima County have said the mine could dry up the creeks. Arizona Daily Star 5/10/2015

 

BLM: Rosemont Mine plans worrisome now, just like before

A top U.S. Bureau of Land Management official in Arizona said at a 2013 press conference that “a lot of progress” was being made to address the agency’s concerns about the proposed Rosemont Mine. But at the same time, memos obtained by the Arizona Daily Star show, his staff wrote a half-dozen memos and emails raising serious concerns about potential environmental damage from the mine. One BLM biologist went so far as to write that his boss’ public statement didn’t represent “our” position in the eight-year dispute over the mine project 30 miles southeast of Tucson. Arizona Daily Star 5/9/2015

 

Fractures, faults big issue in Rosemont dispute

A common theme in Bureau of Land Management memos about the Rosemont Mine is that the Forest Service didn’t do enough to understand the faults and fractures underneath the mine site. Bureau scientists warned in several memos that the fractures and faults could act as conduits, allowing groundwater to flow more rapidly than it would otherwise from Cienega Creek to the mine pit, and making it more likely that the creek could dry up. Arizona Daily Star 5/9/2015

 

EPA criticizes state’s latest approval of Rosemont Mine

The EPA took another shot at the Rosemont Mine — this time arguing that state regulators aren’t doing enough to protect neighboring streams from pollution. In a letter last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said a recent state certification that the mine will meet Arizona water quality standards is unlikely to provide enough protection for Cienega Creek and its tributaries. Arizona Daily Star 5/6/2015

 

Gov’t lays out plans to address mine sludge

Authorities plan to use polyurethane foam to stop more sludge from leaking from the former Lead Queen Mine near Patagonia, representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey told the audience at a community meeting last week in Patagonia. Weekly Bulletin 5/6/2015

 

Social licence: easy to grant, hard to revoke

When a new pipeline or mine is proposed, promises are often made to communities and First Nations to win community approval. But as Yukon taxpayers and mine workers are learning, it’s hard to force companies to live up to their promises and obligations when they go bankrupt. Business Vancouver 5/5/2015

 

EPA cites concerns over Rosemont project plans

EPA officials have sent state and federal officials a letter citing concerns with the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine’s project, highlighting concerns with meeting standards of the federal Clean Water Act. In an April 14 letter, EPA notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that ADEQ’s “certification is unlikely to provide sufficient measures to safeguard the water quality of the Cienega Creek watershed, including stream reaches” that, under Arizona law, are designated as outstanding waters and cannot be degraded. Tucson News Now 5/4/2015

 

Sierra Club Releases 2015 Environmental Report Card

Today, Sierra Club released its 2015 Environmental Report Card for the Arizona Legislature and Governor. The first regular session of the 52nd Legislature wrapped up quickly – in only 81 days – which was a good thing as the session was focused on taking Arizona backwards, one bill at a time. Sierra Club News Release 5/4/2015

 

Seed Saviors

My last seed library visit takes me to Patagonia, where librarian Abbie Zeltzer introduces me to Francesca Claverie…Borderlands Restoration and Native Seeds/SEARCH gave them seeds, and they became involved with Mariposa Community Health Center in Nogales and Rio Rico. “They’re doing community garden work,” Claverie says. “We wanted the first presentations and the library accessible to the entire community—a lot of the people in Patagonia are Spanish-speaking only.” Edible Baja Arizona 5/2015

 

Study Looks At Cattle Grazing on Contaminated Grasslands

Scientific concern about the effect on agricultural plants from heavy metals used for fertilizers and pesticides has risen in recent decades. This awareness has led to an emerging concern about the cattle that graze on contaminated land, including areas surrounding old mining sites. A study completed in 2012 by a University of Arizona graduate student, “Bio-accumulation of Heavy Metals from Soil to Plants in Areas Contaminated by Acid Mine Drainage in SE Arizona”, sought to address this concern as it applies to the practice of cattle grazing in and around Patagonia area mining sites. The study conducted a comprehensive analysis of the soil adjacent to old mining sites in the Patagonia Mountains to identify metal contaminants and established to what degree they exceeded the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ)’s guidelines for acceptable levels. Patagonia Regional Times 5/2015

 

Earthfest’s workshops, lectures, hikes and events help foster a greater awareness of our role as caretakers of our planet

Twelve community service organizations and eight local businesses participated in this year’s Earthfest, April 17 – 19. The activities were held in several locations: hazardous materials recycling was at Doc Mock park, the workshops were held at the town council chambers, and Cady Hall was the scene of youth art and other youth activities (“food alive” presentation and face painting), electronics recycling, community service organization booths, and the Friends of the Library auction. Carolyn Schafer, who organized the event, says that she was pleased to see increased participation from community organizations and a higher turnout than last year. One local resident remarked to her about the youth art on display, “Wow! Awesome stuff! So much talent and creativity on display. Patagonia is so lucky to have its future in the hands of such wonderful thinkers and artists.” Patagonia Regional Times 5/2015

 

April’s Lack Of Showers Brings Our Succulent Flowers

Here it comes folks. May is upon us and with it comes our yearly oven. Given the blessed relief of elevation we surely don’t suffer mercurial extremes as do Phoenix and Tucson. Still, hot is hot. Despite decent winter rains this year, soon the land will be mostly parched and desiccated. April was mostly dry as well, laying waste to my childhood maxim of “April showers bring May flowers.” This was a fitting paradigm on the East Coast, but certainly not here! Patagonia Regional Times 5/2015

 

Friends of Sonoita Creek Protectors of Our Fragile Watershed

The Friends of Sonoita Creek (FOSC) want more people to know about watersheds and riparian areas, especially what they mean for our local creek. FOSC is a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 and dedicated to protecting Sonoita Creek and its watershed. The group informs visitors and residents about the creek’s importance through presentations, hikes, trainings, written materials, and their website. They advocate with land owners and regulators on ways to preserve and restore the Creek. They also fund teacher education, citizen scientist training, stream monitoring, and projects led by other local conservation organizations that advance FOSC’s mission. Patagonia Regional Times 5/2015

 

NRC Ruling Gives Victory to Mine Opponents

Opponents of a proposed uranium mine claimed victory today, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) ruled that proper procedures have not been followed to protect Native American cultural resources and that further action must be taken to protect water resources before the proposed mining project can go forward. The Dewey-Burdock mine is proposed for Fall River and Custer Counties in southwestern South Dakota. Indigenous Environmental Network 4/30/2015

 

Fears of drop in Arizona wine grapes after freeze

Flying Leap was one of at least four wineries on Elgin Road that took the brunt of sub-freezing overnight weather. The cold hovered over four vineyards on Elgin Road belonging to Dos Cabezas WineWorks, Callaghan Vineyards, Flying Leap and Kief-Joshua Vineyards. Arizona Republic 4/30/2015

 

Critics Call McCain’s Oak Flat Tactics a New Low

So what do you do with widely loathed legislation that would boost one of your big donors (According to OpenSecrets.org, McCain is perennially the top Congressional recipient of Rio Tinto campaign contributions) and screw an old adversary—in this case the San Carlos Apache Tribe, with whom the senator has reportedly shared a long, bitter relationship? Well, you do what Sen. McCain did (with help from Arizona’s other senator, Jeff Flake), which meant tacking the [Oak Flat] land exchange onto a mammoth defense-funding bill virtually assured of final passage in December. Tucson Weekly 4/30/2015

 

Length of Con Mine water treatment concerns environmentalist

This summer, the mine’s owner, Newmont Mining Corporation, will start treating contaminated water from the site’s surface and underground workings using a newly-constructed water treatment plant. The water will be treated to remove various metals, including arsenic, before being released into the environment. Newmont is currently scheduling 50 years of continuing water treatment, plus other monitoring activities. But a consultant to Newmont, Golder Associates, told the company in 2009 that getting rid of arsenic can take anywhere from 50 to 400 years. CBC News 4/30/2015

 

Shining a Light on Rosemont Copper’s “Good Citizen” Gambit

Sure, Rosemont Copper plans to dig a huge hole in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, extract copper for 20 years, then leave a big hole and close up shop, but that’s not what the company is really about. It’s about being a good citizen and giving back to the community. How do I know? Just ask Rosemont Copper. My advice to all those “partners” who Rosemont has given a helping hand. Don’t expect much more than a middle finger once the copper mine has its license to dig. The company has already told Pima County what it thinks of its commitment to preserve southern Arizona’s dark skies. Tucson Weekly 4/30/2015

 

Experts: Runoff From Abandoned Mines Is Killing Pa.’s Waterways

Pennsylvania is home to hundreds of abandoned coal mines, which fill with water in heavy rain and then leach or spill into our rivers and stream. They usually carry quantities of reddish-orange iron or a blue and white form of aluminum. All are deadly to waterways by coating the creek floor and clogging the gills of fish. The State Department of Environmental Protection estimated that more than 5,000 miles of streams have been polluted and or destroyed by acid mine drainage – posing the single largest threat to our drinking water, fish, wildlife and the natural beauty of our state. KDKA-TV 4/29/2015

 

Forest Service outlines plan to clean up toxic mine site

The Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District held a community meeting Tuesday to answer questions about clean up of a contaminated mine site and to update residents about a future drilling project set to take place in the area. Last October, Tucson News Now first showed you dramatic pictures of bright orange soil and water flowing in the Patagonia mountains, after we were alerted by environmental groups in the area. Since the discovery, the soil and water have been tested. Test results showed extremely high levels of concentrations of lead and arsenic in water, soil and waste rock samples at the Lead Queen site. High concentrations of zinc, copper and aluminum were also found. Tucson News Now 4/28/2015

 

County sues Rosemont, alleging outdoor light violation

Pima County has filed a lawsuit against Rosemont Copper Co. accusing the mining firm of violating the region’s lighting regulations. The lawsuit, filed in Pima County Superior Court, claims Rosemont was notified in September 2014 of the possible violations but did not come into compliance. “Any new outdoor lighting requires an approved lighting permit from Pima County demonstrating compliance with the lighting code prior to placement of lighting into service,” Pima County building officials wrote to Rosemont’s parent company, Canada-based Hudbay, in September. Rosemont countered in a written response to the county that it is not subject to the county’s outdoor lighting code. Arizona Daily Star 4/28/2015

 

CNF to hold community meeting in Patagonia

The Coronado National Forest will host a community meeting in Patagonia on Tuesday, April 28 to discuss issues related to mining and wildfires. The meeting is set for 6:30-8 p.m.at the Patagonia High School Cafeteria, 200 E. Naugle Ave. “The Lead Queen Mine cleanup and mitigation plan will be shared, as will updates on the Hermosa Project and outlook for fire season,” the CNF said in a news release. Weekly Bulletin 4/22/2015

 

In the Fight for Public Lands, the Outdoor Industry Is a Rising Force

From major manufacturers to local outfitters, the outdoor industry is coming into its own as a political force. Public lands, and all who love them, stand to benefit in a big way. Outside Magazine 4/22/2015

 

Earthfest celebrates community and environment

“It’s a wonderful blend,” said organizer Carolyn Schafer, referring to all the different organizations and activities at Patagonia’s Earthfest last Saturday. Shafer said she was happy with the change of venue this year to Cady Hall. “To combine the community organizations with the youth art was a wonderful mix,” she said. “There was a greater sense of community than at our previous events.” Weekly Bulletin 4/22/2015

 

A Copper Mine Near Superior Is Set to Destroy a Unique, Sacred Recreation Area — for Fleeting Benefits

Because of a land-swap law signed by President Obama in December, though, much of the Oak Flat area appears destined to be destroyed — as if hit by a meteor. The fun, beauty, and reverence for Oak Flat will cease long before then, when the mined-out honeycombed structure below it will make the surface too risky for visitors. After the Resolution Copper Mine company takes title, it plans to go deep underground to scoop out more than 1,000 feet of rich copper ore deposits buried beneath Oak Flat. When it’s done in few decades — or possibly before it’s done — the beautiful landscape, sacred to some, will turn into a circular, crater-like pile of rubble about a mile across and up to 1,000 feet deep. Phoenix New Times 4/22/2015

 

New telecomm tower going up on Red Mountain

The summit of Red Mountain near Patagonia is getting another communications tower. The 100-foot structure is being constructed by a crew working for GovNET Inc, a private telecommunications company based in Scottsdale that is building a statewide microwave and fiber network. Work began on April 13 and is expected to continue for another six weeks. Weekly Bulletin 4/22/2015

 

SSVEC asks state for exemption on solar rules

Members of Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative learned last week that the utility has applied to the Arizona Corporation Commission to change rules that encourage homeowners to invest in solar power generating systems. In a notice that was sent to customers the company said it is “pro-solar,” but needs to be exempt from the state’s net metering rules that require the utility to pay its members with solar installations for the electricity those systems generate. Weekly Bulletin 4/22/2015

 

Patagonia Trail Blazing Part 3

It is with mixed feelings that I submit this, my final blog entry marking the finish of the new trail linking the Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center and The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. I think I speak for all the crew members in declaring no small amount of pride in having completed a job well done but an equal measure of regret that we will no longer be gathering each Wednesday morning as we have since last November to put our collective shoulders to the wheel in the service of these two wonderful organizations whose work not only protects our area’s unique flora and fauna but enhances our enjoyment of these precious assets in the process. Tucson Audubon Blog 4/20/2015

 

Science still developing on uranium’s environmental impact

Six miles south of Tusayan the 17-acre site of Canyon Uranium Mine has sat nearly unchanged for years. Development of the mine site began in 1986 but uranium price declines and legal battles have delayed the sinking of a shaft 1,500 feet below ground to access rich “pipes” of compact, high-grade uranium mineralization. After U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell ruled earlier this month that the Forest Service’s 30-year-old environmental reviews of the mine are still valid and that new tribal consultations are not needed, the mine sent official notice that it will resume operations in late June. But that action could be delayed further still with two impending appeals to the recent decision. The Havasupai Tribe filed a notice of appeal last week and the Grand Canyon Trust, another party in the lawsuit, plans to file an appeal as well and request an immediate injunction to halt the mine from moving forward, said Roger Clark, who heads the nonprofit’s Grand Canyon program. Arizona Daily Sun 4/20/2015

 

Experts: Outdoor recreation worth $646B a year to economy

Consumers spend $646 billion annually on outdoor recreation, say advocates, who are calling on the government to do a better job of tracking the worth of what they call an undervalued industry. Advocates with the Center for American Progress also say the numbers demonstrate the value of the nation’s parks and open spaces, which the outdoor industry depends on. “These are legitimate jobs,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, adding that national parks saw more visitors last year than ever before. Arizona Daily Star 4/17/2015

 

Hummingbirds flashing their colors in Southern Arizona

Hummingbirds are adding splashes of avian color to deserts and woodlands of Southeastern Arizona this spring, with their whirring wings and fancy feathers attracting attention in backyard gardens, parks and scenic natural areas. “Spring and fall are definitely the heaviest hummingbird seasons because some species are migrating through the area at those times of year,” said Keith Ashley, coordinator for the Tucson Audubon Society’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia. Arizona Daily Star 4/17/2015

 

Unlikely allies: Mexican miners and farmers unite over toxic spill

CANANEA, Mexico — The pipes have gone silent. Gone is the hum of water flowing through them to the world’s second-largest copper mine, just south of the U.S. border. Instead, in the normally empty desert here, tents and buses line the highway. Dust and smoke from cooking fires fill the air while hundreds of people listen to speeches and discuss the day’s events. This plantón, or occupation, which began on March 18, has shut down most operations at the Cananea mine, which consumes huge quantities of water pumped from 49 wells across the desert in order to extract copper concentrate from crushed ore. Al Jazeera America 4/15/2015

 

Protect public lands: It’s what the people want

We all know that energy and land issues can be contentious – both inside and outside of the Beltway. But there may be glimmers of hope amidst the partisan discord. In twenty years of polling on public policy, last month was the first time we presented survey data to staffers from both sides of the aisle in the same meeting. The fact that this was our first ever bipartisan meeting surprised even the people in the room, but would be even more shocking to the voters we speak with every day. That’s because most voters – particularly voters in the western United States – generally agree on priorities for public lands, uses of those lands, and policies that govern them. The Hill 4/15/2015

 

Workshop assesses health of Sonoita Creek

Friends of Sonoita Creek participated last month in a rapid stream-riparian assessment workshop led by Peter Stacey, research professor at the University of New Mexico. It was Stacey’s second visit to Sonoita Creek to teach a field protocol to determine the health of riparian areas in the arid Southwest. Participants took data at two, 200-meter sites on Sonoita Creek: The Nature Conservancy Patagonia-Sonoita Preserve, and below Patagonia Dam on state trust land where damage from grazing, drought and flooding was evident. Weekly Bulletin 4/15/2015

 

Wildfire burns more than 100 acres near airport

A wildfire that burned approximately 111 acres of National Forest land at the west end of the Patagonia Mountains had been stopped and was close to being contained Monday. The Cumero Fire was first reported at 3 p.m. Sunday, at which point Patagonia Volunteer Fire and Rescue responded. Patagonia Fire Capt. Ike Isakson said the blaze started in the bottom of Cumero Canyon, and firefighters had to fight it in rocky and steep terrain. Weekly Bulletin 4/6/2015

 

Wildfire sparked in Patagonia Mountains

A wildfire sparked in the Patagonia Mountains Sunday afternoon. The fire has grown since then, charring 60 acres. Crews now have the fire 60% contained. Resources are on scene at the Cumero Fire. It is unclear if flames are threatening any homes or other structures. Tucson News Now 4/5/2015

 

Our Land, Up for Grabs

A battle is looming over America’s public lands. It’s difficult to understand why, given decades of consistent, strong support from voters of both parties for protecting land, water and the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic benefits these resources make possible. New York Times 4/2/2015

 

An Update on Patagonia’s Water Strategies

Eureka . . . it’s raining! You probably have noticed more rain soaking our soils this winter than in the past few years. Last summer’s monsoon rains were pretty good, too. Wildflowers are blooming, and the cacti look plump. Is the drought over? Not exactly, but there are a variety of efforts coming together to support Mother Nature’s contribution, both when she is generous (like this year) or stingy (like most of the past 13 years). Many focus on collecting data and using it to inform decision-making and prioritize actions. Patagonia Regional Times 4/2015

 

Endangered Species in Southern AZ

Below is the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s list of Federally Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species in and around the Patagonia Mountains of the Coronado National Forest in southern Arizona (2013). Federally endangered species are those species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant part of their range. Federally threatened species are those which are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout or in a significant part of their range. Sensitive species are identified with the goal of avoiding trends toward federal listing and maintaining their viability. “C” refers to candidates for status as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Patagonia Regional Times 4/2015

 

April’s Bird Blitzkrieg: Mexican Specialties

April is finally upon us – a halcyon time for all things wild, especially birds. This is peak migration time for many species in our famed Sky Islands. Thus, a wide variety of neotropical migrants make their return to our local haunts, either for mating or as a way station along their routes to breeding grounds further north. A number of other resident birds become more vocal and/or visible in April as hormones and the associated reproductive imperative takes over. Among both groups are a number of species more characteristic of Mexico than of the rest of the United States. Commonly referred to as “Mexican specialties,” these birds help define the unique biodiversity of the Sky Islands. Patagonia Regional Times 4/2015

 

Mindful Waste Disposal

What do a malfunctioning computer, an old paint can, and a leftover bottle of prescription medication have in common? They are all items that should be disposed of carefully. Why? Because if these items are not disposed of properly they contaminate the water and the soil and ultimately poison the food and water we consume, resulting in disease and illness. Saturday, April 18 is an opportunity to dispose of some of these items during the sixth Annual EARTHfest Patagonia event. Patagonia Regional Times 4/2015

 

Meeting and Greeting Our Visitors

Some of the many visitors to our town are just passing through. Many are here because they have been drawn to this area’s beauty and its recreational activities. Either way, they have questions… about trails, the lake, restaurants, lodging, wineries, birds… Patagonia Regional Times 4/2015

 

EDITORIAL—Rosemont: Think before digging

So, what’s new in the world of Arizona copper mining? Our two senators have given away $150 billion worth of Forest Service land containing the Resolution copper ore deposit in a scandalous land exchange deal passed by the U.S. Congress. Two engineering firms implicated by Canadian authorities in the Mt. Polley tailings dam collapse contributed key engineering studies used by Rosemont Copper to authenticate a required mining permit. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) just issued a Water Quality Certification for the proposed Rosemont mine. Hudbay Minerals, the new owner of Rosemont Copper, is starting a second round of drilling to further delineate the boundaries of that ore deposit. Rosemont’s Air Quality permit, granted by ADEQ, was rescinded by an Arizona Superior Court judge. And Asarco recently laid off 130 people from 3 of their Arizona mine sites (including the one near Green Valley). Green Valley News 3/31/2015

 

What severe drought in the Colorado River Basin looks like

Lake Powell, one of the nation’s largest reservoirs, is now below 45 percent of its capacity. Straddling the border between Utah and Arizona, the man-made reservoir is part of the Colorado Water Basin that supplies water to 40 million people. Lake Powell stores water from states in the upper Colorado basin — New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming — for the states in the lower basin: Nevada, Arizona and California. Washington Post 3/30/2015

 

Expansion of Four Utah Uranium Mines Halted

In response to formal objections by Uranium Watch and other conservation groups, the Manti-La Sal National Forest on Tuesday halted plans to allow the uranium industry to expand the La Sal Mines Complex — a complex of four old uranium mines located in La Sal, Utah. Citing violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and other laws and regulations, Uranium Watch and four other conservation groups objected to the Forest Service’s draft approval of the plan. The large-scale expansion would include drilling 3,800 new exploration holes, dewatering an estimated 50 springs and a surface disturbance of more than 200 acres. The mines threaten radiological and heavy metal pollution of groundwater, soil, and air, putting wildlife and people at risk. Grand Canyon Trust News Release 3/26/2015

 

Gold in faeces ‘is worth millions and could save the environment’

Fortunes could be saved from going down the drain by extracting gold and precious metals from poo, scientists suggest. Sewage sludge contains traces of gold, silver and platinum at levels that would be seen as commercially viable by traditional prospectors. “The gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit,” said Kathleen Smith, of the US Geological Survey. Smith and her colleagues argue that extracting metals from waste could also help limit the release of harmful metals, such as lead, into the environment in fertilizers and reduce the amount of toxic sewage that has to be buried or burnt. The Guardian 3/23/2015

 

Why wild animals need wildlife corridors

Species are disappearing at thousands of times the historical extinction rate, mainly due to habitat loss. But as the recent success of wildlife corridors suggests, a little connectivity can go a long way. Mother Nature Network 3/23/2015

 

Drought to continue in West, forecasters predict

The spring weather outlook for the West issued last week by federal forecasters has a familiar ring to it: continuing drought conditions leading to greater wildfire risk. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast predicts drought will persist or worsen in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and western Colorado through June. Arizona Republic 3/23/2015

 

Ocelot photographed on mine site’s doorstep

An endangered ocelot was photographed less than one-third of a mile from the site of the proposed Rosemont Mine, a federal agency says. Two photos were taken of the cat three-tenths of a mile from the site on May 21, 2014, newly released documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show. That came two days before the U.S. Forest Service delayed its final decision on the $1.2 billion mine project, in part because of the ocelot. Arizona Daily Star 3/22/2015

 

More copper layoffs feared

More layoffs could be coming in the copper industry that’s entangled in a prolonged price slump, a leading mining economist says. If China’s economy keeps slipping and prices keep falling, more copper miners could face layoffs, said John Tilton of the Colorado School of Mines. Early this month, Asarco laid off 130 employees from three of its four Arizona copper facilities, including 35 at the Mission Mine south of Tucson near Sahuarita. The rest were from the company’s Ray Mine and its mill in nearby Hayden in Central Arizona. Arizona Daily Star 3/22/2015

 

New environmental rules for tailings ponds

VANCOUVER – The disastrous collapse of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond in B.C.’s Interior last year has spurred changes to provincial environmental requirements for new mines with similar dams. Developed in collaboration between the ministries of environment and mines, the new rules say mining firms must consider the possibility of a tailings disaster and evaluate the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of an accident. Canadian Press 3/20/2015

 

Local lakes lure anglers across county lines

While not all of them came for the fishing, 189,378 people visited Patagonia State Park in 2014, according to data provided by Ranger Colt Alford. When asked, 2.9 percent of anglers in the state said Patagonia Lake was the most recent body of water where they fished, making it the ninth most popular in the state, according to a 2013 state Fish and Game survey. Only 0.7 percent identified Peña Blanca Lake as their last angling destination, putting it in the middle of the pack of the nearly 100 fishing spots included in the study. Nogales International 3/19/2015

 

Obama administration must act to avoid mine waste disasters

A coalition of more than 40 environmental and community groups today sent letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) urging they take immediate action to investigate threats posed by mine waste dams and impoundments in the United States. In the wake of the August 2014 Mount Polley mine waste disaster in Canada which released roughly 24.4 million cubic meters of mine waste into the Fraser River watershed, a government-commissioned independent investigative panel determined that current global standard practice for mine waste disposal is fundamentally flawed and that future failures at other mines are simply a matter of time. To date, U.S. regulators have taken no action to assess the risks posed by mines in the U.S. Earthworks News Release 3/19/2015

 

Gogebic Taconite mine never made sense in Wisconsin

Don’t believe Bill Williams or Sen. Tom Tiffany. It wasn’t the EPA but the company’s lack of homework that killed this project. Sen. Tom Tiffany asserts that mining can be done in an environmentally-safe manner and blames the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Gogebic Taconite, or GTac, pulling the plug on its proposed iron mine upstream from Lake Superior. This interpretation is misleading on several counts. Wisconsin Rapids Tribune 3/19/2015

 

Canadian Disaster Raises Alarm About Shaky U.S. Dams

One early morning last August, at the foot of the massive Mount Polley gold mine in British Columbia, Canada, a large dam broke. Water surged for four days, dumping some 6.6 billion gallons of arsenic-laced sludge into some of the most pristine lakes on the planet. It was one of the largest mining dam collapses in history, with cleanup costs totaling $200 million. Now the reverberations of that environmental catastrophe are spilling farther afield. The U.S. has more than 900 mining dams that could wreak havoc like Mount Polley’s did, threatening towns, streams, and people from coast to coast. That’s the message that three dozen environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and EarthWorks, are sending Thursday to the Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. BuzzFeed News 3/18/2015

 

Patagonia Visitor Center hosts open house at new digs

With the bird migration in full tilt and the desert already beginning to bloom, this spring couldn’t be better timing for the opening of the new Patagonia Visitor Center. It’s now located at the corner of South Third and McKeown avenues with hours tentatively set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. Weekly Bulletin 3/18/2015

 

A growing success at Deep Dirt Farm

Kate Tirion, who is owner, teacher, and visionary-in-chief of Deep Dirt Farm Institute in Patagonia, spends every Friday morning with a group of 11 women who call themselves “Women Who Plant.” She teaches them how to best grow vegetables, flowers and herbs in her greenhouses and in outside planting beds at her facility in Stevens Canyon. Weekly Bulletin 3/18/2015

 

AZ Senate Advances “Land Grab” Bills

The Arizona Senate Committee on Rural Affairs and Environment recently advanced three bills and one memorial demanding that all federally owned public lands in Arizona be transferred to the state immediately. Phoenix New Times 3/18/2015

 

Battle Over Iron Mine Leaves Scars

In late 2011, Bill Williams stood on a ridge in the Penokee Hills, overlooking his company’s proposed site for a $1.5 billion iron ore mine. A reporter asked him about the environmental challenges posed by such a project. Williams, president of Gogebic Taconite, batted the concern away. If a problem should arise, he told the reporter, “we have to engineer our way out of it.” In late February, Williams announced that his company was dropping plans for the northern Wisconsin mine for now, saying the environmental challenges proved too great. That drew the mother of all “I told you sos” from Bob Jauch, a former Democratic state senator whose district included the mine site. Urban Milwaukee 3/18/2015

 

Miners woo communities with soccer fields, bull rings and guinea pigs to unlock US$25 billion in stalled projects

Schools and clinics. Soccer fields and bull rings. Even plump guinea pigs — to eat. From South America to Africa, mining companies are throwing all that and more at communities to quiet growing opposition to controversial projects. “There’s something like US$25 billion worth of projects tied up or stopped,” Mark Cutifani, chief executive officer of Anglo American Plc, said in an interview. “We have to get all those relationships right.” While opposition to mines is nothing new, the issue is a growing concern for miners like Anglo American and executives are increasingly speaking out. Billions of dollars are at stake, they say. Their opponents say the companies despoil the environment and often fail to benefit local economies, or at least not as much as they claim. Financial Post 3/17/2015

 

Uranium Mine near Grand Canyon could open within a year

Uranium mining has a long history in northern Arizona. For over a hundred years it’s created jobs, but has also caused cancer in miners who breathed it or the many Native Americans who drank it after their water became contaminated by it. “There’s still now over 3,000 valid existing claims within this area,” Salazar said in a 2011 press conference announcing his proposal for the ban, “So, those existing claims will be honored as is our requirement by the law.” That is how it is completely legal for a company called Energy Fuels to re-open and start mining uranium out of Canyon Mine, which was permitted to be mined in 1986. And the company is planning on doing just that after they got the go-ahead from the National Forest Service since the mine is inside the Kaibab National Forest. Arizona Republic 3/17/2015

 

Running to Save Oak Flat

When the Los Angeles Marathon 30th Edition kicked off today at 6:55 a.m. PDT, among the 25,000-plus runners were five Native Americans who are running to save an Apache sacred site from destruction by an international mining company. Indian Country Today 3/15/2015

 

Successes in Mexican wolf recovery

At Arizona Game and Fish Commission meetings, we frequently hear public comments about how the commission’s actions will lead to the “second extinction” of the Mexican wolf. But, with the recent announcement that the Arizona-New Mexico wolf population grew by 31 percent last year, isn’t it time for naysayers and everyone interested in Mexican wolf recovery to recognize the program’s success? Nogales International 3/13/2015

 

Public Lands May Be America’s Best Climate Defense

Willow and cottonwood trees, verdant with springtime foliage, draped over the shallow Aravaipa Creek in mid-February as if forsaking any notion of winter. The blooming trees and abundant plant life, along with rare species of desert wildlife, make the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness so biologically diverse and sensitive to human intrusion that it is one of a handful of wilderness areas in the country that have a daily cap on the number of visitors. This wild slice of the Sonoran Desert is also potentially a major bulwark against the effects of climate change, as are many of the protected public lands across the country. Climate Central 3/12/2015

 

2 huge gold mines paying $591K in fines for Nevada pollution

RENO, Nev. — The world’s two largest gold-mining companies have agreed to pay nearly $600,000 in combined penalties in a deal with U.S. and Nevada environmental regulators that signals more stringent enforcement of pollution laws in the state that leads the nation in gold production. Washington Post 3/11/2015

 

Uranium mine outside Tusayan to re-open, lawsuit to move forward

Because of falling uranium prices and lawsuits from environmental groups and the Havasupai tribe, in 2012 Energy Fuels Inc. stopped operations at Canyon Mine. Within the next year, the operators plan to re-open the mine and commence operations. The Grand Canyon Trust was one of several groups that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service opposing the opening of the mine. “Grand Canyon Trust and other plaintiffs (Grand Canyon Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and the Havasupai Tribe) filed suit, for allowing this mine to reopen without renewing its environmental impact statement,” Clark said. “The original operating permit and environmental impact statement for Canyon Mine was done in the 1980s.” Grand Canyon News 3/10/2015

 

Arizona Lawmakers Try to Undermine the Endangered Species Act

In case all the ocelots, jaguars, and Mexican spotted owls are starting to feel too safe, the Arizona Committee on Military Affairs and Public Safety is stepping in, having passed a memorial to modify the rules and provisions of the Endangered Species Act. Phoenix New Times 3/9/2015

 

Maricopa judge overturns Rosemont mine’s air permit

A Maricopa County judge on Friday overturned a state air-quality permit issued to Rosemont Copper in January 2013 for its planned mine southeast of Tucson. Superior Court Judge Crane McClennen ruled that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s action in granting the permit to Rosemont Copper was “contrary to law, was arbitrary and capricious, and was an abuse of discretion.” Arizona Daily Star 3/7/2015

 

Court Overturns Rosemont Air Pollution Permit

A Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court today overturned a key air pollution permit for Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals’ proposed Rosemont copper mine. Judge Crane McClennen ruled the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) acted “contrary to law” in its January 2013 decision to issue Rosemont the permit. In completely adopting the evidence and arguments presented by SSSR, the court found the state relied on flawed data provided by Rosemont that was designed to understate the air pollution impact of the proposed $1.5 billion open pit copper mine. Save the Scenic Santa Ritas News Release 3/6/2015

 

Mining geologist set to plead guilty in Western Alaska pollution case

A career mining geologist accused in an Alaska environmental crimes case involving the dormant Platinum Creek Mine is cooperating with authorities and will plead guilty on Wednesday to three federal charges, according to a plea agreement filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Robert Pate, 63, is one of five executives and managers with Australian-led XS Platinum Inc. accused of polluting Alaska salmon streams when they restarted the old platinum mine in Western Alaska at the edge of Kuskokwim Bay. It is the first federal case in Alaska charging a mining company with criminal violations of the Clean Water Act. Alaska Dispatch News 3/2/2015

 

Quakers Force PNC Bank to End Investment in Mountaintop Removal

Bowing to pressure from Quaker environmentalists, today PNC Bank announced that it will be restricting financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. The shift outlined in its 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report means PNC Bank will effectively cease its investment in this controversial practice. Earth Quaker Action Team News Release 3/2/2015

 

Clean Up of Lead Queen Mine to Begin

Last September when heavy rains flooded old mining tunnels and sent heavy metals into the local watershed, many government agencies assessed the damage, trying to determine how toxic the run off was, where it was coming from, and how to prevent it from happening again. Test results showed high concentrations of lead and arsenic in water, soil and waste rack samples at the Lead Queen Mine which is on land owned by the US Forest Service (USFS). At the time, the Sierra Vista Ranger Station told the PRT that they had no funds for emergency clean up, but that they were going to assess the situation and request the funds. Earlier this month the Forest Service issued a Time Critical Removal Action Approval Memorandum. This is a lengthy and detailed history of the mine, the September overflow, the heavy metals present in the area, the kind of harm those metals can do to humans and wildlife, and what needs to be done to correct the situation. Patagonia Regional Times 3/2015

 

Bluebird Project Is A Win-Win

When we hear about people transforming bird habitat, it’s often for the worse–but not in this case. In early February a troop of Tucson Audubon volunteers mounted nest boxes for Azure or Mexican Bluebirds on two of the Sonoita Wine Guild’s vineyards in an effort to strengthen this vulnerable population of the Eastern Bluebird subspecies, Sialia sialis fulva. At the same time, students from the University of Arizona, under the direction of bluebird researcher Dr. Renee Duckworth, mounted boxes at four more vineyards. In total about 50 new nesting cavities are now available to this tiny bluebird colony of southeast Arizona. The collaborative project is dubbed “Win–Win for Azure Bluebirds and Arizona Vineyards” to emphasize its reconciliation ecology dimension: a conservation project with potential economic benefits for wine growers and the region. Patagonia Regional Times 3/2015

 

Reflecting On What Has Been Achieved: The 3 Canyons Wildlife Corridor

It’s true—the property formerly known as 3 Canyons, with 200 houses and thin strips of land loosely defined as a ‘conservation easement,’ will not be developing as planned. It will, in fact, be protected as a wildlife corridor, with human and other animal activities negotiated through close collaboration with local communities. Up to 20 existing lots in the south end of the property may have to be sold over time in order to pay the enormous mortgage and insurance costs incurred by scores of family and friends, but these will not be exclusive or high-end sales. In fact, many who contributed to the effort emptied retirement or savings accounts to make this happen, and they continue to volunteer tirelessly. It’s imperative that we all understand these facts. And it is for those who have given, and for many others who continue to give and always will, that we at Borderlands Restoration will work harder than ever to make this effort work in every way possible, including opportunities to work on the land. Patagonia Regional Times 3/2015

 

New Information and Resource Center to Open

In a new collaborative effort, Patagonia Regional Times (PRT) and the Patagonia Area Business Association (PABA), which is in charge of the Visitor’s Center, have rented the space on the corner of Third and McKeown, owned by Ted Piper. Borderlands Restoration also shares space in the building. The Visitor’s Center will expand its role, and plans to offer information on businesses from Elgin to Nogales, as well as community resources, activities and events. The many uses to which this space might contribute are still being explored. Patagonia Regional Times 3/2015

 

Gogebic Taconite says Wisconsin mine isn’t feasible; cites wetlands, EPA

The company that promised a huge mine in northern Wisconsin announced Friday that it was dropping the controversial project because it is not feasible. “We don’t want to throw out false hope,” Gogebic Taconite president Bill Williams told the State Journal. “Our parent company felt there wasn’t enough certainty to it.” State Republicans crusaded for the mine starting in 2011, saying it would create thousands of jobs in an economically distressed area, but scientists warned of possible environmental degradation, and skeptics have cited falling iron prices to back up predictions that nothing would materialize. Wisconsin State Journal 2/28/2015

 

New Tactic Emerges in Occupy Oak Flat Movement

In the latest effort to foil the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange, activists are asking President Obama to designate Oak Flat a national monument. The area, which is part of Tonto National Forest, is a historically significant and sacred spot for many Native American tribes, as well as a well-known rock-climbing and recreation destination. Phoenix New Times 2/27/2015

 

Former US Rep. Rick Renzi reports to prison for 3-year term

Former Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi reported to a federal prison in West Virginia on Friday to begin serving a three-year sentence for corruption, money laundering and other convictions. Renzi, 56, was convicted of conspiring to use his congressional post to make companies [Resolution Copper] buy his ex-business associate’s land [for the Oak Flat Land Swap] so the associate could repay a debt to Renzi. AZFamily.com 2/27/2015

 

SSSR Releases Rosemont Mine Risk Report

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas today released a detailed report highlighting the social, environmental and financial risks facing investors and southern Arizona from Hudbay Mineral Inc.’s proposed Rosemont mine. The report can be accessed here: http://scenicsantaritas.org/rosemontriskreport. PR Newswire 2/25/2015

 

Occupy Oak Flat Refuses to Back Down in Protest Against Resolution Copper

Leaders of Occupy Oak Flat say they won’t give up until the U.S. government repeals the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange. The San Carlos Apache Tribe, leading a three-week protest at the Oak Flat Campground, vows to remain there until the federal government bends. The controversial exchange gave Australian-British mining company Resolution Copper (a subsidiary of the largest mining company in the world, Rio Tinto) access to a vast underground copper reserve under Oak Flat. The deal trades 2,400 acres of previously federally protected land for 5,300 acres of company property. The land exchange was attached to the 2015 United States National Defense Authorization Act as a midnight rider after it failed to pass as a stand-alone bill multiple times during the last decade. Phoenix New Times 2/24/2015

 

Mining towns evaluate future after layoffs announced

Mining is not just a job, but a lifeline for an entire community. Mining towns around Arizona have come and gone over time. Some thrive for years, but others are nothing but ghost towns. A large copper community in Pinal County is wondering about its own future, after its largest employer has announced a wave of layoffs. KVOA 2/23/2015

 

Tribe’s protest of mine plan near Superior is in 3rd week

For more than two weeks, protesters have made camp at Oak Flat, the site of a planned copper mine that will result in a massive crater on the sacred site’s surface. “We’re not moving,” said Wendsler Nosie, a former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and a vocal opponent of the mine. He is the organizer of the protest, which he describes as “Occupy Oak Flat.” Arizona Daily Star 2/21/2015

 

Layoffs coming to Asarco mining sites

One of Southern Arizona’s biggest employers has announced layoffs. Asarco will lay off workers at the Mission Mine near Sahuarita and the Hayden and Ray Operations in Pinal and Gila Counties. Final layoff numbers have not been determined, according to Asarco. Union leaders say it is about 160 people. United Steelworkers Sub-District Director Manuel Armenta said the announcement was a surprise. KVOA 2/20/2015

 

Recovery plan could bring Mexican wolf to SC County

A new plan by the federal government to increase the population and range of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico could bring the endangered gray wolf subspecies to Santa Cruz County. Nogales International 2/20/2015

 

The US government’s land grab from the Apaches

How did federally protected land, sacred to Apaches in Arizona, end up in the hands of one of the world’s largest mining conglomerates – and against the tribe’s wishes? The deal was slipped into a critical defense-spending bill, thus evading any public discussion. But the Apache tribe isn’t giving up. Adam May looks at how this sweetheart deal came to pass and the Apaches’ battle to win back their land. Al Jazeera America 2/19/2015

 

Forest Service calls for ‘time-critical’ cleanup

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service say time is critical for cleaning up an abandoned mine near Patagonia that has been leaching heavy metals into nearby drainages. Weekly Bulletin 2/18/2015

 

Forest service authorizes clean up of toxic waste in Patagonia Mountains

The Southwestern Regional Office of the U.S. Forest Service issued an action memo for “time critical” clean-up of the abandoned Lead Queen Mine in the Patagonia Mountains on the Coronado National Forest, approximately six miles south of the town of Patagonia, Arizona. Tucson News Now 2/16/2015

 

It’s old industry vs. new in Arizona open-pit mine fight

The proposed Rosemont open-pit copper mine 30 miles southeast of Tucson is at the center of a battle among Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc. and local environmentalists, businesses, governments, and tribes. If approved, a pit a mile in diameter and half-a-mile deep would be dug into the eastern slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains. On one side is the prospect of heaps of money from mining, an industry that helped build the state. On the other is the environment and a different direction for the local economy, emphasizing tourism and a budding wine industry. The company is still pursuing permits and it is unclear when the Forest Service will announce a decision on the project. Arizona Republic 2/14/2015

 

Forest Service Authorizes Urgent Clean Up of Abandoned Lead Queen Mine In Patagonia Mountains, Arizona

Yesterday, the Southwestern Regional Office of the US Forest Service issued an Action Memo for “Time Critical” clean up of the abandoned Lead Queen mine in the Patagonia Mountains on the Coronado National Forest, approximately 6 miles south of the town of Patagonia, Arizona. Members of the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance (PARA) discovered the abandoned mine over-flowing with toxic, orange sludge into a tributary of Harshaw Creek, last September. PARA documented the spill and notified authorities. The Harshaw Creek tributary eventually flows into the Town of Patagonia, Sonoita Creek and Patagonia Lake. Patagonia Area Resource Alliance News Release 2/13/2015

 

Grijalva bill wound end billions in mining giveaways, protect communities & scarce western water

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3) today introduced the Hardrock Mining Reform and Reclamation Act of 2015 that would rewrite the 19th century law governing the mining of gold, copper, uranium and other hardrock minerals on federally managed lands. Earthworks News Release 2/13/2015

 

Did the GOP Just Give Away $130 Billion of Public Property?

In December, two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, pushed Congress and the president into giving away what could amount to over $130 billion in public property. In a land-swap deal, the Defense Authorization Act took four square miles of Tonto National Forest—public land in Pinal County, just outside Superior, Arizona—and gave it to Resolution Copper, so that Resolution Copper can build a copper mine on the site. The Nation 2/13/2015

 

Warming pushes Western U.S. toward driest period in 1,000 years: Unprecedented risk of drought in 21st century

During the second half of the 21st century, the US Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions ‘driven primarily’ by human-induced global warming, a new study predicts. Science Daily 2/12/2015

 

Coronado Forest supervisor leaving for higher-ranking job

Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch, whose name has become synonymous with the protracted Rosemont Mine controversy, is leaving his job in two months for a higher-level post in Albuquerque. Upchurch will become a deputy to Regional Forester Calvin Joyner in the Forest Service regional forester’s office there, he said Wednesday. Arizona Daily Star 2/12/2015

 

Water quality certification issued to Rosemont

Rosemont Copper was given another nod of approval on Feb. 4 after the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) issued a conditional water quality certification that will allow the company to move fill material into nearby canyons during the construction and operation of its proposed mine northwest of Sonoita. Weekly Bulletin 2/11/2015

 

Don’t Fence the Jaguar Out

Concerns about smuggling, trafficking and immigration have led to the construction by the United States of a fence along most of its border with Mexico. Absent from the debate about such fencing and other security measures has been its impact on the wildlife. Among the magnificent creatures that roam the area are jaguars, ocelots, Mexican wolves and ringtails, small carnivores of the raccoon family. New York Times 2/11/2015

 

Hundreds Gather at Oak Flat to Fight for Sacred Apache Land

Some 300 tribal members and supporters from across the country had gathered to protest the infringement of traditional Apache holy lands. There were Chippewa, Navajo, Lumbi, Pauite, Havasupai, and representatives of the National American Indian Movement and the National American Indian Veterans group, as well as non-indigenous supporters representing myriad concerns including those of environmentalists and other lovers of nature. All were furious at Congress’s sneaky transfer of sacred Apache land to a mining company and vowing to do what they could to see that it didn’t happen. Indian Country Today 2/9/2015

 

The outdoor economy is big. Its voice in Washington is not

The ski-industry closings are a small but representative setback for what a new report calls the outdoor economy — that is, “the stream of economic output that results from the protection and sustainable use of America’s lands and waters when they are preserved in a largely undeveloped state”. Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic force. It accounts for “more direct jobs than oil, natural gas and mining combined”, according to the report published by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, in January. Guardian 2/6/2015

 

San Carlos Apache tribe begins 40-mile march to protest future copper mine

Dozens of people sang, danced and prayed outside of the San Carlos Apache tribe’s office on Thursday morning before heading out on a 44-mile journey in an attempt to protect their ancestral lands at Oak Flat campground. Cronkite News 2/5/2015

 

Rosemont gets another key state approval

It’s one more government approval down, two to go for the proposed Rosemont Mine. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality announced Wednesday that it has issued a final certification — with lots of conditions attached — that the mine will meet state water quality standards. Arizona Daily Star 2/5/2015

 

Hundreds of mines around world at risk of catastrophic waste dam failure

In response to the findings of an investigation of the Mount Polley tailings dam failure in British Columbia, Canada, a coalition of environmental and community groups today called upon the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to investigate threats posed by similar mine waste dams in the U.S. and around the world, and to reassess existing mine proposals. “The most important finding of the Mount Polley investigation is that catastrophic mine waste dam failures can and will happen anywhere, unless we apply the lessons of Mount Polley and act to prevent them,” said Dr. David Chambers, president of the Center for Science in Public Participation. He continued, “Preventing these failures is critical to protecting the public from environmental and financial impacts, since there is no financial surety for catastrophic tailings dam accidents.” Earthworks News Release 2/4/2015

 

Obama wants to end the mining industry’s free ride on public land

For generations, everyone from individual miners to multinational corporations has been able to dig up natural resources on federal land without having to pay a royalty to the federal government. The Obama administration wants to change that. The agency in charge of the federal government’s vast land holdings, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, has proposed a host of new fees for mining on public land as part of President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget. Center for Investigative Reporting 2/4/2015

 

Transfer of Arizona national forest to mining firm divides blighted town

Congress has approved the transfer of 2,400 acres of national forest to a subsidiary of two foreign mining companies. The transfer ended a nearly decade-long fight over access to the federally protected land and ignited a feud that has split families, ended lifelong friendships and turned miners and former miners against one another. LA Times 2/3/2015

 

FRONTLINE/CIR exposed how public lands are still ruled by 1872 mining law

As part of our new Lords of Yesterday series, I’ve been looking at 19th-century laws and policies that govern our natural resources and public lands today. Recently, I wrote about the environmental and economic impact of the 143-year-old law that governs mining for gold, copper, silver and other hardrock minerals. This isn’t the first time The Center for Investigative Reporting dug into this issue. In 1994, CIR producer Stephen Talbot and reporters Rick Young and Dan Noyes teamed up with FRONTLINE to look at how private companies make a profit off of public resources. Center for Investigative Reporting 2/2/2015

 

UN Confirms 2014 Was ‘Hottest Year on Record’

Not only was 2014 the hottest year ever recorded but 14 out of the 15 hottest years since 1850 have occurred in the 21st century, according to new data released today by the UN’s weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO brought together the findings of the world’s three major climatic research units, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the UK’s Met Office, all of which said 2014 was the hottest year on record. EcoWatch 2/2/2015

 

Forest Service Withdraws Approval Of Sunnyside’s Drilling Project

The Sunnyside Drilling Project, proposed by Regal Resources,a Canadian company, was given the go ahead by two federal agencies back in September. This astonished local environmentalists as the area is rich in wildlife and there are several endangered species who live or pass through the area. Patagonia Regional Times 2/2015

 

Plans Afoot On The Arizona Trail

Patagonia LOVES the Arizona Trail. And the Arizona Trail LOVES Patagonia. What’s not to love? Having a national scenic trail that runs right through the town provides great recreational opportunities and brings in revenue from travelers from all over the world. Patagonia provides the trail and its users a safe and convenient location for shuttling vehicles and horse trailers, storing bikes, and getting supplies. Patagonia Regional Times 2/2015

 

Promoting Community Conservation and Partnership

In February 1966 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased its first property in the state of Arizona – our own PatagoniaSonoita Creek Preserve. The deal included 312 acres of the former San Jose del Sonoita land grant along Sonoita Creek. Year round water on the property still supports an increasingly rare riparian cottonwood willow forest and numerous fish, plant, and bird species. Since the initial purchase, TNC has purchased other properties locally and today has protected over 800 acres around Patagonia (see map). Patagonia Regional Times 2/2015

 

Learning From Legos

Borderlands Restoration has been playing with the Legos of landscape restoration with a group called the Sky Island Restoration Cooperative (SIRC). SIRC is a coalition of restoration practitioners, land managers, scientists, and private citizens, whose work spans the Borderlands region. We are like a family that shares skills, expensive tools, and even shovels to achieve a common goal of restoring ecological processes and systems. Patagonia Regional Times 2/2015

 

New Native Seeds/SEARCH Director Speaks at Woman’s Club Meeting

The monthly meeting of the Patagonia Woman’s Club on January 8 featured two members of Native Seeds/SEARCH’s staff: Larrie Warren, newly named executive director and Lynda Prim, manager of the farm here in Patagonia. Both spoke to the importance of strengthening the world’s collection of ancient seed strains as climate change brings extreme conditions in which these heirloom seeds are more likely to thrive than the hybrids that are now commonly in use. Patagonia Regional Times 2/2015

 

February’s Ferocious Owls

Which state boasts the most owl species? Arizona! We boast an impressive 12, of all shapes, sizes, and habits. February is an excellent month in the Sky Islands to see several species that either leave our area in warmer months or that become less visible once trees and shrubs begin to leaf out in spring. Patagonia Regional Times 2/2015

 

What happens when streams dry up? The insect impact

In streams across the Southwest, water bugs that swim in rocky pools and glide across the surface of waterholes fill an important biological niche, serving as prey for birds and other animals. But researchers have found that when streams run dry during years of extreme drought, some of those water bugs abruptly vanish. Desert Sun 1/31/2015

 

Apache leader: Unite to fight proposed Arizona copper mine

Apache leader Wendsler Nosie on Friday issued a call for solidarity in the fight against the U.S. Congress’ recent decision to give sacred Native American land to a foreign mining company. Speaking to a crowd of about 75 gathered in South Tucson, Nosie invited people of of all races, religions and political affiliations to stand up against what he calls the “dirty” way in which legislators approved the land swap in December. He invited everyone to a spiritual gathering and protest at Oak Flat, about 100 miles north of Tucson, on Saturday, Feb. 7. Arizona Daily Star 1/31/2015

 

Design failure caused Mount Polley tailings breach, expert panel concludes

A panel of geotechnical experts appointed by the B.C. government to investigate the catastrophic collapse of a tailings dam at the Mount Polley copper/gold mine has concluded the accident occurred because of a design failure, and it happened so suddenly there was no warning. The Globe and Mail 1/30/2015

 

Wild cats, war chests, permits and pills: HudBay deal had it all

The takeover battle between HudBay Minerals Inc. and Augusta Resource Corp. had a bit of everything: a feud over permitting, an unprecedented regulatory decision on poison pills, a war-chest filled by an over-subscribed equity deal, and the surprise walk-on appearance of a cute wild cat. Financial Post 1/30/2015

 

Patagonia Trail Blazing

On Wednesday, January 7, some dozen able-bodied volunteers set about the task of building a hiking trail from Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds to The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. The single-use trail will be nearly a mile long and will allow hikers to walk from either of these two birding hotspots to the other while enjoying some great views of the surrounding landscape from elevated parts of the trail. Tucson Audubon Blog 1/29/2015

 

San Carlos Apache Leader: ‘What Was a Struggle to Protect Our Most Sacred Site Is Now a Battle’

Washington lawmakers may think their passage of a bill giving the San Carlos Apache Tribe’s sacred land to a giant international mining company is a done deal, but they may have to think again. The San Carlos Apache Tribe is organizing an all-out campaign to stop the transfer of Oak Flat, its 2,400-acre sacred ceremonial and burial site since time immemorial, to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the giant global mining corporation Rio Tinto. San Carlos wants to protect the land and water from the almost certain devastation of Resolution’s proposed massive underground copper mine, and preserve its natural state. Indian Country Today 1/27/2015

 

McCaul’s bill exacerbates the loss of freedom of border residents

H.R. 399, the Secure Our Border First Act of 2015, a militarization-only bill that in the words of its author, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), will allow the Department of Defense “to transfer assets from theatre of war and redeploy them to the Southwest border” passed the House Committee on Homeland Security late Wednesday and party leaders said they would take it to the floor this week for a vote. The “theatre of war” pledges to make the border a stage for militarism and threatens constitutional protections of all residents and communities living within 100 miles of a land or sea border – including all of San Diego County, and all the way to Disneyland in Orange County. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) already enjoy extraordinary authority to operate within this 100-mile zone with little accountability. In practice, CBP virtually ignores 4th amendment rights by subjecting residents to unjustified stops, searches and detentions as they go to work, attend school or run errands. H.R. 399, or what border residents are referring to as “McCaul’s Militarization Bill,” would codify this policy and practice of compromising civil and human rights to the detriment of tens of millions of people who call the border region home. The Hill 1/27/2015

 

Safety and water at Resolution Copper operation

There are many issues to the “land swap” that McCain and Flake managed to earmark recently. The “swap” was debated in the Senate several times and had not passed because of environmental issues. The transforming of a traditional Oak Grove, so significant that it had been protected by two U. S. presidents, into another “meteor crater” will bring innumerable changes to the region. My concerns are safety and water. Arizona Silver Belt 1/27/2015

 

Opponents say mine threatens Patagonia drinking water

A proposed, $834 million silver mine in the Patagonia Mountains could deplete the region’s dwindling groundwater supplies and is likely to worsen existing acidic runoff into streams, says a new report from two opposition groups. The report — blasted by the mining company but generally praised by the Patagonia town manager — says the mine could make a bleak local water situation due to drought worse. The proposed Hermosa Project would pump groundwater for a mine and processing plant for 18 years near Harshaw Creek and threaten the town’s water supply because the creek’s watershed supplies some of Patagonia’s drinking water, the report says. Arizona Daily Star 1/25/2015

 

Privatizing public lands for mine disgraceful

If there’s money to be made, nothing can safeguard Arizona’s lands from its own leaders. In December, U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (with Paul Gosar and John McCain) attached a public lands bill onto an unrelated “must-pass” defense bill which quietly privatized a protected landscape in our district. This maneuver bypassed public opinion on 2,400 acres at Oak Flat, a free campground in the Tonto National Forest near Superior, and whether it should be given to British mining company Rio Tinto. Arizona Daily Sun 1/25/2015

 

$10 billion border bill unneeded, critics say

A $1 billion-a-year bill moving through Congress would add miles of roads and fences along the border and waive more than a dozen environmental laws within 100 miles of the border — even though top immigration officials say that’s not needed. Arizona Daily Star 1/25/2015

 

Foreign-owned mines operate royalty-free under outdated US law

Let’s say you own 245 million acres. And underneath that land are billions of dollars’ worth of minerals – gold, silver, copper, uranium and more. Would you let foreign companies in to tear up your land, put your water at risk and take those minerals without paying royalties? You already are. That’s the amount of public surface land controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the federal government’s biggest landholder. And companies that mine these lands are exempt from federal royalty payments. Center for Investigative Reporting 1/21/2015

 

Grassroots Victory Stops Central Illinois Coal Mine

An eight-year battle against a central Illinois strip mine ends in victory for the community of Canton and Orion township. An arm of Springfield Coal Company asked the Department of Natural Resources to terminate their permit for the North Canton Mine before a court hearing challenging errors in permit approval. “The naysayers told us we couldn’t fight city hall and the mine. They have more money. But we stayed the course,” said Brenda Dilts, Chair of Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues. HuffPost Green 1/21/2015

 

Threatened wildlife puts drilling on hold

A number of endangered and threatened species, including the yellow-billed cuckoo, are holding up a mining operation in the Patagonia Mountains. In a letter dated Jan. 9, Mark Ruggiero, district ranger for the Coronado National Forest, said he was withdrawing his decision memorandum for the Sunnyside Exploratory Drilling Project owned by Canadian mining company Regal Resources, which has been planning to drill at a half dozen sites near Alum Gulch south of town in search of copper deposits. Weekly Bulletin 1/21/2015

 

Days free, retirees build and maintain county trails

As the sun burned the clouds off the Patagonia Mountains last Wednesday morning, the sound of steel striking rock filled the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. A line of people, more than a dozen strong, were snaked out along a section of a new walking trail, swinging heavy-duty rakes, axes and other trail-building tools. While many trail crews in the country are staffed by young people with a taste for seasonal work, this particular all-volunteer crew is on the other end of the age spectrum. Made up mostly of retired men and a few couples, the “dirt bags,” as several members call themselves, have helped maintain and build trails in Santa Cruz County for about the last five years. Nogales International 1/20/2015

 

Threatened bird puts brakes on Coronado National Forest mine

Federal officials have pulled back approval for exploratory mine drilling in the Coronado National Forest after receiving what one official described as new information on a threatened bird in the area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extended threatened status to the yellow-billed cuckoo in October – more than a month after the U.S. Forest Service had given Regal Resources the go-ahead to drill for evidence of copper in the Patagonia area of the forest. Cronkite News 1/15/2015

 

Great Old Broads on a mission to save wilderness

Members of a group called the Great Old Broads for Wilderness will host an event in Tucson Wednesday to tell about their organization and invite others to join them in doing “serious work for Mother Earth.” The nonprofit group, founded 25 years ago, has 4,500 members nationwide, including about 200 in Arizona. It aims to engage the activism of elders and others to preserve and protect wild lands. Arizona Daily Star 1/13/2015

 

Regulators Take Action Against Delinquent Mines

Two weeks after NPR and Mine Safety and Health News reported nearly $70 million in delinquent mine safety penalties at more than 4,000 coal and mineral mines, federal regulators suddenly revived a rare approach to enforce mines to pay. KNAU Arizona Public Radio 1/12/2015

 

Western Australia’s mining boom ebbs along with China’s economy

With China’s slowing economic growth, one of the biggest mining booms in Australian history is over, leaving behind a trail of jobless workers and struggling local businesses in places such as Karratha, which thrived in recent years but is now at risk of becoming a ghost town. Close to a third of Karratha’s 35,000 residents are more or less temporary — fly-in, fly-out workers like Norton, or FIFOs, as they’re called here. They’ve come from all over the country, in many cases leaving behind families and more prestigious but less financially rewarding careers. LA Times 1/11/2015

 

Tucson a model for planning for drier future, author says

Internationally recognized food and farming activist Gary Paul Nabhan says Tucson gardeners do a good job recognizing the importance of harvesting rainwater to grow crops in the desert climate. But on the heels of Tucson’s warmest year on record, Nabhan feels more can be done. Arizona Daily Star 1/11/2015

 

Merger deal falls through for Pearce mine project

Commonwealth Silver and Gold Mining, Inc., and Delta Gold Corporation have come to a parting of the ways, after signing a merger agreement earlier last year. A group opposed to the project, known as “The CommonwealthMine.org Team,” posted Delta Gold’s Dec. 30 press release on its website, saying, “It’s official, we went by the Commonwealth Mine in Pearce, Ariz., today and confirmed that they are packing up operations and the ending of the story gets better…” Willcox Range News 1/7/2015

 

Mining Proposal Near Mt. St. Helens Defeated

In late December, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Ascot Resources Limited voluntarily dismissed their appeals of a federal district court decision invalidating permits for a mining exploration project just northeast of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The project would have permitted exploratory drilling to locate deposits of copper, gold, and molybdenum and a potential mine, which could significantly harm threatened salmon and steelhead in the Green River—a proposed Wild and Scenic River and wild steelhead gene bank—and myriad recreation opportunities in the area. Gifford Pinchot Task Force Press Release 1/6/2015

 

Rosemont Mine, opponents clash over air permit

Opponents of the Rosemont Mine clashed with the mining company and a state agency Monday over whether the state can deny a permit to the mine if it’s shown to have the potential to violate clean-air standards. Arizona Daily Star 1/6/2015

 

Monday Hearing For Lawsuit Over Rosemont Copper Mine

A lawsuit challenging an air permit for Rosemont Copper Company will have opening arguments in state court Monday morning. The environmental group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas is challenging an air pollution permit issued by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for the proposed mine in the mountains southeast of Tucson. The lawsuit alleges Rosemont manipulated data to hide potential air pollution violations. Further hurdles remain beyond the air quality permit lawsuit for Rosemont copper mine. That includes recent photographic evidence of an endangered ocelot in the area. Arizona Public Media 1/2/2015

 

Audubon Has Big Plans For Paton’s

If you’ve been to Paton’s bird sanctuary lately, you will have noticed big changes under way. Most obvious is that it is now called Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds. This, as readers may remember, came about as the result of the property being purchased earlier this year under a joint agreement between Victor Emmanuel Nature Tours, the American Bird Conservancy, and Tucson Audubon. When all the necessary legal and financial papers were finalized, ownership passed to Tucson Audubon. The new center was dedicated the first weekend in December. Supporters from around the country came to Patagonia for a variety of presentations and events that started on Friday evening with dessert and coffee in a big tent on the property and went through to a Sunday morning birding trip. Patagonia Regional Times 1/2015

 

Birdwatching’s Boost to Local Economy

Recent studies show that bird watching is among the nation’s most popular recreational activities and growing. Why birding? Ask the more than 47 million bird watchers in America why they love birds, and you’ll probably get a range of replies as diverse as the birds themselves. With colors and songs that can stop you in your tracks, equally colorful and evocative names, and life stories full of amazing feats of speed and stamina, birds are an exciting gateway to the natural world, right outside your door! A recent economic impact analysis suggests that Arizonans now have a billion more reasons to appreciate birds and wildlife. Patagonia Regional Times 1/2015

 

Meeting Provides A Closer Look at Three Canyons Project

On December 16, Cady Hall was filled with people interested in learning about and influencing plans for the recently purchased Three Canyons property just outside Patagonia along Route 82. David Seibert and Ron Pulliam from Borderlands Restoration led the 2 1⁄2-hour discussion. The first half of the meeting included a presentation on what the property offers, the goals of the new owners, and how Wildlife Corridors purchased the land. For more detail on that, take a look at the article in the November edition of the PRT. The remainder of the meeting was a “listening session” to field questions and suggestions from the audience. There were several breaks for people to enjoy a nice spread provided by Borderlands. Patagonia Regional Times 1/2015

 

A Rainy Day for Bird Counting

This year’s Christmas bird count in Patagonia went on despite the horrible weather. My team of four people, including an eleven-year-old beginning birder from England, had the territory starting at the extreme west edge of the San Raphael Valley and then west and south along the road back to Patagonia. This included Corral Canyon which was the center of our territory. Patagonia Regional Times 1/2015