For Immediate Release, November 4, 2015
||Nick Kimbrell, Avaaz, firstname.lastname@example.org, (917) 613-7202
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, email@example.com (310) 779-4894
John Nelson, CREDO Action, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 550-6175
Athan Manuel, Sierra Club, email@example.com, (202) 716-0006
More Than 1 Million People Speak Out to Save Oak Flat, Sacred Apache Land
Fight to Repeal Rider Gains Momentum Ahead of Wednesday’s Hearing
WASHINGTON— The signatures of more than 1 million people were submitted today in favor of saving Oak Flat, sacred tribal land in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest that was traded away last December to facilitate a massive copper mine. The signatures were turned in ahead of today’s House Natural Resources Committee forum on protecting sacred American Indian sites.
The signatures were presented to Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking minority member of the committee, by Avaaz, CREDO Action, the Center for Biological Diversity and MoveOn.
“The fight to save Oak Flat will succeed,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “People from across the country, and even around the world, are outraged by what’s happened with Oak Flat and won’t stand by to see our public lands and American Indian sacred sites be destroyed for profits.”
In a midnight rider last December, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) forced a provision in the must-pass bill to fund the Defense Department that transferred sacred Oak Flat area to a foreign-owned mining corporation for the largest copper-mining project in North America. The land exchange authorizes devastating block-cave mining, which would destroy the sacred Oak Flat area and create a crater up to two miles long.
“Oak Flat should be protected, not plundered,” said Nick Kimbrell, a senior campaigner with Avaaz. “Over a million people in the U.S. and around the world are calling on Congress to stop this act of cultural vandalism and set a precedent for governments everywhere to protect native peoples and their sacred sites."
The Oak Flat area in the Tonto National Forest, located about one hour east of Phoenix, Ariz., has been an important ancestral site for the Apache, Yavapais and other American Indians for centuries. Oak Flat is also a highly popular recreation area and important wildlife habitat.
Congressman Grijalva has introduced H.R. 2811, the Save Oak Flat Act, to overturn the measure and protect Oak Flat from the copper mine. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for today at 2226 Rayburn House Office Building, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“There are few things more brazen than seizing sacred land from Native Americans so it can be mined by a multinational corporation,” said CREDO Communications Director Josh Nelson. “Congress can and should reverse this deeply undemocratic land grab without delay.”
“It should be no surprise that there is a tremendous desire from people across the country to save Oak Flat. The cultural and natural importance of this site should not be sacrificed to mining,” said Athan Manuel, director of Sierra Club's Lands Protection Program.