This Saturday, as Americans celebrate National Trails Day, in southern Arizona there is a cloud hanging over the hiking community and other recreational users of public lands in southern Arizona. Outdoor recreation including trails are under direct threat from the proposed massive open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson, Arizona.
According to the American Hiking Society, National Trails Day is “a celebration of trails that evolved from the 1987 report of President Ronald Reagan’s President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors”. However, as a result of the copper mine proposed by junior Canadian mining company Rosemont Copper, southern Arizonans could be faced with the loss of outdoor recreation opportunities on over 6,200 acres in and around the Santa Rita Mountains.
In discussing the impacts of the proposed Rosemont Mine, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said, “[w]e believe that the [Rosemont Copper] project will render the northern portion of the Santa Rita Mountains virtually worthless as wildlife habitat and as a functioning ecosystem, and thus also worthless for wildlife recreation.”
Most significantly, 3.8 miles of the Arizona Trail would have to be relocated because of the proposed mine. The Arizona Trail extends over 800 miles through the state – from its southern border with Mexico to its northern border with Utah. The section of the trail impacted by the mine traverses an area of unique biological diversity that is accessible to an adjacent metropolitan area of almost 1 million residents.
If allowed, this huge mine will consist of a permanent open pit mine that will measure a half mile deep and a mile rim-to-rim and mine waste piled 70-80 stories high that will obliterate the drainages and valleys in the Santa Rita Mountains.
The proposed Rosemont Mine could also have devastating impacts to other economic sectors that depend on outdoor recreation. Consider:
In 2011, BizTucson a regional business magazine, reported that toursim is a “$2.5 billion a year industry” in southern Arizona.
The Access Fund, a national organization concerned with keeping public lands open for recreation, released an economic study that found that “87,000 Arizona jobs and $371 million in state tax revenues are supported by “human-powered recreation” such as climbing, hiking, mountain biking and camping.”
Tom Power, a nationally recognized economist, in a report prepared for comments on the Rosemont draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), referenced the Arizona Travel Impacts study indicating there were 31,000 direct travel industry jobs and earnings of approximately $700 million in the counties of Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz.
Allowing Rosemont to destroy one the mountain ranges that makes southern Arizona a great place for tourists to visit will obviously cause significant economic harm.