Officials with the Coconino National Forest have filed an application to renew a mining ban on the San Francisco Peaks. The 20-year withdrawal would continue to prevent claims on nearly 75,000 acres north of Flagstaff. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
The current mining ban on the Peaks expires in October. The area is part of the Coconino National Forest, but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will ultimately decide whether to approve the request since it involves subsurface mineral rights.
Forest officials say pumice, sand, gravel and uranium, among other minerals, could be of interest to mining companies, and there are many reasons to keep prospecting off the San Francisco Peaks and Mount Elden. The area is sacred to many tribes, as well as being one of Flagstaff’s most important watersheds and a popular recreation site.
"The Peaks themselves are one of the most important religious and cultural sites for many of the tribes, and mining in that area is just a desecration of some of their values. That’s probably the most important reason we want to consider this for withdrawal," says Josh Peck is the deputy district ranger for the Flagstaff Ranger District.
Environmentalists applauded renewal. But the Center for Biological Diversity wants to expand it beyond mining, and allow tribes more say in protecting sacred sites on the San Francisco Peaks.
The Forest Service is accepting public comments and will hold an online public meeting Aug. 17.