The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking public comment on a proposed land exchange that offers the potential to retain and create hundreds of Arizona mining jobs, as well as create new supporting jobs within nearby communities, while improving access for hunting and other recreation on public land in the state. Today’s release of a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) kicks off a 90-day comment period, beginning on Nov. 17, during which the BLM is collecting public input before moving forward in the decision making process.
Under the proposed Ray Land Exchange with ASARCO LLC, a mining company, the BLM would acquire 7,304 acres of land in Pinal and Mohave Counties, a move that would consolidate checkerboard land ownership in those areas and improve access to existing public lands for hunting and other recreation. In exchange, the BLM would transfer 10,976 acres of public lands near ASARCO’s Ray Mine Complex and Copper Butte properties in Pinal and Gila Counties, near Kearny. ASARCO holds existing mining and mill site claims on those public lands near the mine and if approved, would likely expand mining operations.
“Responsible development of natural resources, coupled with shared conservation stewardship, has the potential to benefit local communities and America,” said BLM Gila District Manager Scott Feldhausen. “We are committed to hearing from local communities about the use of public lands in their backyards.”
Additionally, the BLM has scheduled a series of public information open houses in communities near the Ray Mine and the offered lands in Mohave County. During these open houses, the public can learn more about the proposed land exchange and provide comment on the draft Supplemental EIS. The open houses are scheduled for:
· Jan. 16, 5 –7:30 p.m., 701 N. Hwy. 177, Kearny, AZ 85137
· Jan. 17, 5 – 7:30 p.m., 775 N. Greenfield Rd., Gilbert, AZ 85234
· Jan. 18, 5 – 7:30 p.m., 401 N. Bonita Ave., Tucson, AZ 85709
· Jan. 23, 5 – 7:30 p.m., 1971 Jagerson Ave., Kingman, AZ 86409
The proposed Ray Land Exchange has a long history. The original Ray Land Exchange Final EIS (FEIS) was issued by the BLM in 1999, and was approved on April 27, 2000. After 10 years of appeals and legal challenges, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a major premise of the environmental impact analysis contained in the 1999 FEIS was flawed. The court recognized that ASARCO has the right to conduct mining and related activities on those public lands based on their existing claims, but required the BLM to go back and analyze the different environmental consequences of ASARCO’s likely mining operations, with or without the exchange.
The BLM completed the new Draft Supplemental EIS in order to satisfy this “with or without” analysis of environmental impacts to public lands. It also updates information to reflect any changes in environmental conditions in the project area, as well as any applicable environmental laws or regulatory policies that may have come into effect since 1999. The Draft Supplemental EIS can be found here.
Comments and questions related to the Supplemental EIS may be submitted to Michael Werner, Project Manager, BLM Arizona State Office, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004-4427 or emailed to RayLandExchange@blm.gov. Comments should be received by Feb. 16.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $75 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2016—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 372,000 jobs.