Collin O’Mara, head of The National Wildlife Federation, sent a letter this week to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking the Biden Administration to discontinue a Trump policy of allowing lands sacred to the Apache to be traded to a foreign mining consortium.
If allowed to continue, the land swap – enacted in a midnight deal by Congress in 2014 – would turn Arizona public lands sacred in Apache religion into a copper mine. The Agriculture Department (which includes the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees the lands in the Tonto National Forest) recently urged the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the land swap.
O’Mara highlighted this recent action with the administration’s stated goals in a Jan. 26 presidential memorandum, “Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships.”
That document, signed by the president, says:
President Biden concludes:
O’Mara notes the history of ignoring Native American concerns. Referring to the sacred lands by their Apache name, O’Mara writes: “There is no better place to start righting these wrongs than Chi’chil Biłdagoteel and no better time than now.”