Congressional Democrats are attempting to undo a controversial federal land swap in southeastern Arizona. A budget proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to prevent the construction of the one of the largest copper mines in the nation at the Oak Flat area. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
The House Natural Resources Committee has proposed repealing a section of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that allowed the exchange of nearly 2,500 acres on the Tonto National Forest. It includes Oak Flat, an area sacred to many members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
The proposal is part of a sweeping $3.5 trillion budget plan Democrats are attempting to pass using a maneuver known as reconciliation.
Back in 2014, several members of Congress from Arizona pushed for the inclusion of the land exchange in the must-pass defense bill, saying the Resolution Copper mine would bring an economic windfall to the state. Tribes and conservation groups, however, have fought the move for years and say it would destroy the sacred site and the surrounding desert environment.
The U.S. Forest Service put the final stages of the land swap on hold indefinitely earlier this year. The House Budget Committee is expected to approve a final version of the budget by the end of the month, which will be followed by a House vote.