Forest Service failed to adequately analyze Rosemont’s major impacts to Arizona Trail, OHV and other recreational uses

Share/Bookmark

SSSR14_1014_Pages from rosemont-feis-vol-1The proposed Rosemont copper mine will have major negative impacts on popular recreational activities in the Santa Rita Mountains located on the Coronado National Forest (CNF), including off-highway-vehicle (OHV) use and the relocation of 13 miles of the Arizona National Scenic Trail.

Despite the anticipated recreation-related problems, the CNF did not adequately analyze the severity of the impacts or propose suitable mitigation measures to compensate for the damage, according to comprehensive written objections to the CNF’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed massive open pit mine.

The objections were prepared by a citizen’s coalition opposed to the mine and were filed with the U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester, who must respond in writing by the end of April.

If the objections are not adequately addressed with substantive changes to mining plans, the issues could be used in potential litigation against the Forest Service that could block construction of the mile-wide, half-mile deep open pit mine.

The Forest Service’s FEIS describes the CNF as a “recreation forest” because  recreation is such a high priority for visitors. The agency, however,  did not include a “Recreation Specialist’s Report” in the FEIS that would have provided a comprehensive analysis of the mine’s serious impacts on recreational activities in the Santa Rita Mountains, the objections state.

The CNF’s decision not to include the recreation report comes after a 2008 assessment by the Arizona Game & Fish Department that the mine would “render the northern portion of the Santa Rita Mountains…worthless for wildlife recreation.”

The objections state that CNF has not analyzed what the impact of destroying the Santa Rita Mountains will have on other public lands that the Forest Service predicts will see dramatic increases in recreational use.

Mine opponents asked the Regional Forester to withdraw December’s preliminary decision to approve the mine in a draft Record of Decision and, instead, prepare the Recreation Specialist’s Report to be included in a new Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that would be subject to public review and comment.

The objections also cited additional shortcomings in the FEIS including:

  • Failure to provide a full analysis of the Arizona Trail relocation alternatives.

The mine will dump waste rock and potentially toxic mine tailings across more than 3,000 acres of the CNF, severing the popular Arizona trail and requiring construction of a new 13-mile segment.

The Forest Service, the objections state, provided conflicting information in its FEIS about when and where the new trail would be constructed and whether the existing trail would be closed prior to completion of an alternative route.

Objectors also state that the Forest Service did not provide adequate disclosure of the cost of constructing the new trail or a detailed accounting of Rosemont Copper Company’s commitment to pay for construction of the new trail segment.

The objectors requested: “The USFS should conduct a comprehensive, site-specific field evaluation of the alternative trail locations, as well as a similarly comprehensive site-specific evaluation of potential construction-related issues, mine-related impacts on trail users, and impacts on wildlife, vegetation and other resources, and include those assessments in a revised DEIS that is made available for public review and comment.”

  • The FEIS did not include adequate analysis of the impacts of displaced OHV use on other public lands and fails to require adequate mitigation for these impacts.

In its DEIS, the Forest Service described the Rosemont area as “one of the more popular and traveled off-highway vehicle riding areas, the loss of which would be more intense than the loss of roads in other portions of the Santa Rita Back Country Touring Area.”

The Rosemont mine would likely shift OHV to fragile grasslands that will have a dramatic, negative effect on other parts of the CNF and the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, the objections state.

The Forest Service states in the FEIS that it will assemble a team to assess the potential damage from OHV displaced by the Rosemont project in a future analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The objections state the Forest Service is required to do the analysis before it can approve the mine.

Similarly, the Forest Service’s reliance on Rosemont Copper’s promise to provide funding to develop facilities and manage OHV impacts in new areas that are already deemed “less suitable” for off road activities is inadequate, according to the objections.

“It is not acceptable – nor does it constitute mitigation – for the USFS to simply kick the can down the road by agreeing to analyze the impacts of displaced OHV recreation on other areas through a future NEPA process that would be initiated at an unspecified time…through a yet-to-be signed funding agreement with Rosemont,” the recreation objections state.

Mine opponents recommended that the CNF provide a full analysis of the significant environmental and economic impacts of displaced OHV use on other areas of the CNF and adjacent public lands; and develop enforceable mitigation measures that will address the OHV impacts.

The analysis and mitigation should be provided in a revised DEIS that is made available for public review and comment, the objection requests.

* The FEIS provides an inadequate analysis of the Rosemont Mine’s impacts on millions of dollars of  prior investments in recreation and tourism.

The objections state the DEIS failed to analyze the millions of dollars that have been spent in the Rosemont project area to develop and maintain the back country touring area and whether the loss of this investment can reasonably be expected to be duplicated elsewhere.

The objectors requested the CNF to conduct a detailed analysis of the impacts of the Rosemont mine on the public investment and the availability of public funding to develop new recreation areas. The analysis, the objections state, should be included in a revised DEIS that is made available for public review and comment.

Print Friendly
This entry was posted in EIS, The closer you look, the worse it gets. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Forest Service failed to adequately analyze Rosemont’s major impacts to Arizona Trail, OHV and other recreational uses

  1. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    THE FOREST SERVICE IS DOING THE COUNTRY AND THE STATE OF ARIZONA A TOTAL DISSERVICE IN ITS DEALING WITH MINE PERMITTING . AUGUST’S ROSEMONT COPPER PROJECT HAS BROUGHT OUT AN ENDLESS LIST OF SHORTCOMINGS . FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY , POLITICAL POSTURING AND A MEANINGLESS MINING ACT ALL SERVE TO NEGATE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF RULES AND REGULATIONS , WHICH IF THEY EXISTED , COULD HOLD THE MINING INDUSTRY ACCOUNTABLE . BY CATERING TO THE MINING INDUSTRY , THE FOREST SERVICE LOOKS GOOD IN THE EYES OF THE ECONOMIC GURUS THAT WIELD THE POWER . AUGUSTA IS TAKING FULL ADVANTAGE OF THE CURRENT SYSTEM FOR THEIR OWN MAXIMUM GAIN , LEAVING BEHIND MAXIMUM PAIN AND SORROW . AUGUSTA EXECUTIVES ARE ALREADY MILLIONAIRES THANKS TO ROSEMONT , THE STATE OF ARIZONA AND THE FOREST SERVICE . WHERE IS THE GOVERNMENT’S MINING AUTHORITY ? A FOREST SERVICE MANDATED WITH A MINING SERVICE IS A TOTAL MISMATCH . BRING BACK THE BUREAU OF MINES AND MANDATE IT TO DEAL WITH ALL ASPECTS OF MINERAL DEVELOPMENT . WITH PROPER LAND MANAGEMENT AND EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONAL INPUT , AN EFFECTIVE MINING ACT CAN BE CREATED AND ENFORCED . THERE IS ROOM FOR DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES TO WORK TOGETHER IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE PEOPLE . THE PUBLIC COST IN DEALING WITH ROSEMONT IS MOUNTING UP . HOW MUCH HAS THE FOREST SERVICE SPENT TO DATE ON THIS PROJECT ALONE AND IT IS FAR FROM OVER ?

  2. Brian Turner says:

    As a two-time Arizona Trail border to border thru-hiker, I can say without reservation that there is no way to mitigate the damage to the Arizona National Scenic Trail which Rosemont will cause. The trail exists where it does for a specific set of reasons, and the possible re-routes that the construction of this mine would require occupy a narrow corridor defined by the ore pit, its tailings pile, and industrial apparatus on the west side, and the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area on the east. The BLM has long expressed disinterest in hosting the AZNST across Las Cienegas, having favored a route closer to Highway 83 through National Forest and State Trust lands, which is ultimately where the trail was built, with funding provided by – you guessed it – Rosemont Copper. How wasteful, shortsighted, and capricious that Rosemont would have, as we now see, wasted everyone’s time as well as their own dwindling capital on what was merely a temporary alignment for the Arizona Trail intended essentially as a bribe in the name of bolstering the company’s image. Moreover, any new alignment with the intent of avoiding the shifting “ground zero” of the mine’s outsized footprint on the land will only move the trail adjacent to ground zero, outside a zone of liability for the company but well within the zone of major impacts. Trail users will see the mine and its tailings, and hear its 24/7/365 operations for a majority of the proposed 13 mile reroute and then some. Hikers, cyclists, and equestrians will likely have to dodge heavy mining traffic where the trail crosses access roads. Visibility will be reduced to near zero during wind storms and trail users will be exposed to toxic dust while exerting heavily over hill and dale, possibly for multiple days, assuming one were to camp in this area while passing through on the trail. And of course springs and other water sources will become increasingly unreliable or will fail outright, making the Arizona Trail in this region that much more challenging. In essence, Rosemont (and the Forest Service) will have successfully “solved” their Arizona Trail “problem” by relocating the trail, while the problems for users of this National Scenic Trail will only get worse over time. The entire process at stake here makes an outright mockery of National Scenic Trail designation afforded by Congress via the 1968 National Trails System Act. That act created a series of National Trails “to promote the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation.” Rosemont Copper, aided and abetted by Congress as well via the embarrassingly archaic General Mining Act of 1872, is taking full advantage of our divided, incoherent, piecemeal strategy to public lands management, and the Arizona Trail is little more than a football that they intend to kick around at will. They will get away with it, only to the extent that we as a nation continue to allow our government to sit on its hands while they mine us for every loophole and inconsistency in our laws they can find.

  3. Thomas Stewart says:

    Mr Johnson How Can You Blame “The Forest Service” When Your Own “Green Energy/Global Warming Group” Protest Everything From Cutting Down Trees (These Trees Were Lost In A Forest Fire) To Cutting Off Water For Farmers Because A Few Fish Were Killed!! Yikees, Now You Worry About Cost And Bring Back The “Horse & Buggy” Years, Give Rosemont Mining And The Forest Service A Break They Have Jumped Thru Many Hoops And Several Years Of Cost. Maybe Your “Group” Could Just Take A “Rosemont Tour” Of The Proposed Site And Other 21st Century Operations, On The Arizona Desert.