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Public Statements

Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend, Mr. Grijalva, for his leadership and for yielding the time.

I rise in strong opposition to this bill. I have consulted with many Native American tribes, including the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, which I represent. This bill simply does not rise to the standard that allows me to support it. I have talked to the tribes. Their concern is that this bill does not adequately support the protection of sacred lands, nor does it adequately confer with Native Americans on these critical issues.

The gentleman mentioned that the two cosponsors of this legislation have set aside their differences. I have great respect for both Members that offer this legislation. It is commendable that they have set aside their differences.

Unfortunately, what this bill does is also set aside the objections of the Native American tribes of this Nation--of this country--who object to the bill.

It's bad for a couple of reasons:

First, it waives NEPA protections that require mining companies to publicly disclose the environmental impacts they will create, including on our water resources.

Second, basically this bill provides a multibillion dollar giveaway to a foreign mining conglomerate that is engaged in mining uranium in Iran.

Third, this bill would potentially destroy sacred and religious lands.

I know something firsthand about the importance of preserving sacred tribal sites. When I was the president of the Genesee County Land Bank back home in Flint, Michigan, we discovered sacred ancestral remains on a worksite. Instead of simply continuing on the project, as many would have had us do, we did the right thing. We stopped the development, worked with local and tribal officials, identified and protected the sacred remains and returned the land to the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe.

The Federal Government has a legal and trust responsibility to Indian tribes and to protect and preserve sacred tribal lands, and we should take that role very seriously.

I suggest and implore my colleagues to oppose this bill.

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