On Monday morning, as we reported, Protect The 1st filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Apache Stronghold supporting their lawsuit to halt a federal land swap. This swap would have turned the Apache’s sacred lands over to a foreign mining company to extract copper.
Later in the day, the U.S. Forest Service withdrew its final environmental impact statement for the proposed mine in the Tonto National Forest.
The government said that since the impact statement, “the Agency and Department have received significant input from collaborators, partners, and the public through a variety of means.”
This action pauses the 60-day clock on the swap of private for public land that would have allowed Resolution Copper to have utterly ruined the Apache’s sacred land. Both Resolution and the Forest Service have said that Oak Flat would eventually become a crater nearly two miles in diameter and up to 1,000 feet deep.
“The Resolution project will desecrate Chich’il Bildagoteel, also known as Oak Flat, which is the heart of our religious and cultural beliefs,” said Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.
Apache leaders noted that the government’s move came just hours before the deadline for the government to respond to Apache Stronghold’s emergency appeal.
“This is a reprieve for the Apaches and for religious liberty, but it is not yet a victory,” said Gene Schaerr, general counsel of Protect The 1st. “We’ll work closely with counsel for the Apache Stronghold and our religious liberty allies to ride herd on this case and to protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans.