Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 5, 2014

Contact:  Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504

Letter: Science, Not Politics, Should Steer Decision on Arizona Copper Mine, Endangered Species

Proposed Rosemont Mine Threatens Rare Jaguar, Ocelot and Tucson's Water Supply

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter today urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to again take an in-depth look at how the proposed Rosemont copper mine in southern Arizona will affect endangered species, including jaguars, ocelots and rare fish. Agency scientists, in earlier drafts of their “biological opinion” of the project, concluded the mine would not be compatible with endangered animals in the area, including the only jaguar known to be living in the United States. That conclusion was later reversed by a supervisor. The Service, though, announced earlier this year it would revisit that opinion in the face of new information.

“The science is clear: The Rosemont Mine cannot coexist with jaguars, ocelots and other endangered wildlife whose survival is on the line,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate with the Center. “The agency’s own scientists agreed repeatedly in draft opinions that the mine would cause unacceptable harm to the jaguar, but they were overruled by a supervisor for dubious reasons.”

The Rosemont Mine would directly destroy thousands of acres of public land in the Coronado National Forest officially designated as critical habitat essential to the survival and recovery of U.S. jaguars. And hydrological analyses have determined that insatiable groundwater pumping by the mine would create a permanent hydraulic sink that threatens to damage or dry up nearby Cienega Creek, a designated “outstanding water of the United States” that provides critical habitat for endangered Chiricahua leopard frog and two fish, Gila chub and Gila topminnow.

“Aquatic species such as endangered fish and frogs have nowhere to go if the Rosemont Mine sucks the life out of the creek where they live,” said Serraglio, adding that the Cienega Creek watershed also contributes 20 percent of the annual natural recharge to the aquifer that provides Tucson’s groundwater supply. “The permanent damage Rosemont would cause to our water security is not worth any amount of copper.”

“The Service’s earlier decision to ignore the conclusions of its own scientists and give a free pass to the Rosemont Mine appears to be the latest example of the Obama administration’s disturbing tendency to allow politics to trump science,” said Serraglio. “We’re encouraged that the Service has chosen to revisit its mistaken opinion on Rosemont, but we’re also very concerned that politics will continue to muddy the waters when it comes to decisions affecting America’s most endangered wildlife.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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