Today, Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after joining with Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) for a third time in sending a letter to the Director of the National Park Service and the Keeper of National Register of Historic Places requesting the Park Service formally withdraw the nomination of land in Pinal County, Arizona known as “Oak Flat” from consideration for listing in the National Register of Historic Places:
“Despite repeated bipartisan demands for transparency and adequate public notice, there still appears to be a deceptive effort underway by anti-mining opponents and the Park Service to block the bipartisan Southeast Arizona Land Exchange that was signed into law in December of 2014. Dale Miles, a member of the San Carlos Tribe and the former tribal historian, stated in an op-ed featured in the Arizona Republic that Oak Flat has never been a sacred site. As the formal tribal historian, he can say with absolute certainty that this small, poorly-maintained campground has never been a historic place and shouldn’t be listed as one.
“Designating the land acquired by a private company through a bipartisan land exchange as a historic place could limit public access and undermine a copper mining project that is projected to create nearly 3,700 jobs and generate $60 billion for Arizona’s economy. Even worse, the complete lack of detail and lack of notice at every stage of these filings has made it impossible for Arizonans who may be affected to participate in the public comment process. Waiting more than three weeks to provide public notice and only allowing five days for public comment following that publication isn’t going to cut it. We will continue to fight this misguided listing effort at each and every turn.”
On February 26, 2016 Representatives Gosar and Kirkpatrick sent a third bipartisan letter that once again asked for “formal withdrawal of the Pinal County, Arizona property (Oak Flat) being considered for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.” The letter also stated, “If your agency chooses not to grant this bipartisan request, we request that the comment period be extended for an additional 30 days from the time the extension is actually published in the Federal Register as Keeper Toothman indicated would be the case in her February 5, 2016 letter.” This extension was finally published in the Federal Register today, February 29, 2016, five days before the closing of the public comment period. The full third letter from Representatives Gosar and Kirkpatrick to the Park Service can be found HERE.
On February 4, 2016, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported on the second letter Congressman Gosar and Kirkpatrick sent to the Park Service on February 1, 2016 demanding withdrawal of this fundamentally-flawed nomination. The Park Service stated in a response to Congressman Gosar on February 5, 2016, that the agency would be extending the review period for the nomination for 30 days until March 4, 2016, and that “the Keeper will announce this extension in a new Federal Register Notice that will be processed as quickly as possible for publication.” That announcement was not made public till February 29, 2016, five days before the new comment period is scheduled to end on March 4, 2016. Click HERE to read more.
The first letter Representatives Gosar and Kirkpatrick sent pointing out critical flaws with the application and asking for withdrawal of this nomination was sent on June 26, 2015. The letter resulted in the flawed June nomination being returned to the Forest Service for “some technical corrections”. Click HERE to read the entire first letter.
Many members of the San Carlos Tribe admit the land in question is not sacred. Dale Miles, a member of the San Carlos Tribe and the former tribal historian, stated in his op-ed pointing out that the Oak Flat campground has never been a sacred site: “There has not been a long history of ceremonial or cultural activities such as Sunrise or Holy Ground ceremonies taking place at Oak Flat…the thought of having such a ceremony at Oak Flat, far from the support of relatives, clan members and friends in the San Carlos tribal area is almost unthinkable.”
More info about the bipartisan Southeast Arizona Land Exchange that will create 3,700 new jobs, generate 60 billion dollars for our economy, provide 25% of the United States’ copper supply and be the largest copper mine in North America can be found HERE.
The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange, signed into public law in 2014 is consistent with important tribal cultural protection laws including: Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Archeological Resources Protection Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Further, the Forest Service conducted a comprehensive study in 2010 and released a Finding of No Significant Impact for the exchange stating, “The selected action will not cause loss or destruction of significant scientific, cultural or historical resources.” It is worth noting that some of the protesters who currently have a tent and other items on the campground have not paid their permit fees or moved from the site after 14 days of use as the Forest Service requires for other campers.