Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 8, 2014

Contact: Randi Spivak, (310) 779-4894 or

Obama Administration Urged to Oppose Copper Mine, Grazing Giveaway in Defense Bill

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today called on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to fight provisions tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act that would pave the way for a copper mine in Arizona — long opposed by local tribes and citizens — and automatically renew grazing permits on public lands without any consideration for how it will affect rivers, streams, wildlife and pristine habitat.

The bill is set for a vote in the coming days by the Senate.

“If there ever was a moment for the Obama administration to come to the defense of America’s public lands, this is it,” said Randi Spivak, the Center’s public lands director. “These provisions have nothing to do with our military and everything to do with ramming through the right-wing agenda to tear protections away from the lands that Americans own and love. Secretaries Jewell and Vilsack should ask President Obama to veto the bill. ”

Included in the bill are provisions that would:

  • trade 2,400 acres of national forest land in Arizona to Resolution Copper, a foreign mining company, to facilitate development of a copper mine that’s long been opposed by locals. The lands are considered sacred by local tribes who have fought the land trade for years.  
  • automatically renew livestock grazing permits on tens of millions of acres of public lands, even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers. This section, if enacted, would exacerbate habitat degradation that will imperil the greater sage grouse, increasing the need to protect this western bird under the Endangered Species Act.
  • transfer 70,000 acres of public forest in the Tongass National Forest to Sealaska Corporation, thereby privatizing dozens of the best undeveloped coves, bays and recreational areas on the Tongass National Forest, damaging vital fish and wildlife habitats and jeopardizing the livelihoods of several small communities and other forest users.

“This defense bill has become a Trojan horse with provisions that will do long-term damage to our public lands, especially in the West,” Spivak said. “Secretary Jewell and Secretary Vilsack are the guardians of our public lands and we need them front and center in this fight. We’re relying on them to ensure the Obama administration does everything it can to protect these places that are owned by all Americans, not just those exploiting them for profit.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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