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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - May 25, 2005)

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By Mr. KYL (for himself and Mr. MCCAIN):

S. 1122. A bill to authorize and direct the exchange and conveyance of certain National Forest land and other land in southeast Arizona; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, today I am pleased to join with Senator MCCAIN to introduce the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2005. This bill, which facilitates an important land exchange in Arizona, is the product of months of discussion between the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, State and local officials, community groups, recreational and conservation groups, and other stakeholders. It will allow for the protection of some of the most environmentally sensitive lands in Arizona while providing a much needed economic engine for the people of Superior, AZ and the surrounding communities. An identical companion bill is being introduced today in the House of Representatives by Representative RENZI.

The exchange conveys approximately 3,025 acres of land controlled by the Forest Service to Resolution Copper Company. The acreage to be traded to Resolution Copper will facilitate future exploration, and possible development, of what may be one of the largest deposits of copper ore ever discovered in North America. The 3,025 acres are intermingled with, or lie next to, private lands already owned by Resolution Copper, and are located south and east of Resolution's existing underground Magma copper mine. Approximately 75 percent of the 3,025 acre Federal parcel is already blanketed by federally authorized mining claims owned by Resolution Copper that give Resolution the right to explore and develop mineral deposits on it. Given the intermingled ownership, the public safety issues that may be associated with mining activities, and the significant financial investment Resolution Copper must make to even determine whether development of a mine is feasible, it makes sense, for Resolution Copper to own the entire mining area.

However, we also recognize that there is public resource value associated with the Federal land that would come into private ownership and, to the extent we can, we should protect and or replace these resources. The Apache Leap Escarpment, a spectacular cliff area comprising approximately 562 acres on the western side of the federal parcel, is an area deserving of protection. To protect the surface of this area from mining and development, the bill requires that a permanent conservation easement be placed on this area. In addition, the bill sets up a process to determine whether additional or enhanced public access should be provided to Apache Leap and, if so, provides that Resolution Copper will pay up to $250,000 to provide such access.

The bill also requires replacement sites for the Oak Flat Campground and the climbing area that are located on the Federal parcel that will be traded to Resolution Copper. The process to locate replacement sites is already under way, and I am told it is going well. Access to these public areas will not immediately terminate on enactment of this legislation: The bill allows continued public use of the Oak Flat Campground for two years after the enactment and it allows for continued rock climbing use for two years after, and use of the land for the annual ``Boulder Blast'' rock climbing competition for five years after enactment. Replacement sites will be designed and developed largely with funding provided by Resolution Copper.

I am also working with Resolution Copper and community groups to determine whether there may be additional climbing areas within the Federal parcel that could continue to be accessible to the public without compromising public safety or the mining operation. I have included a placeholder in the bill for such additional climbing provisions if agreed to.

In return for conveying the Federal land parcel to Resolution Copper, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will receive six parcels of private land, totaling 4,814 acres. These parcels have been identified, and are strongly endorsed for public acquisition, by the Forest Service, BLM, Arizona Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, Sonoran Institute, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and numerous others.

The largest of the six parcels is the Seven B Ranch located near Mammoth. It runs for 6.8 miles along both sides of the lower San Pedro River--one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the southwestern United States. The parcel also has: one of the largest, and possibly oldest, mesquite bosques in Arizona; a high volume spring that flows year round; and potential recovery habitat for several endangered species, including the southwestern willow flycatcher. It lies on an internationally recognized migratory bird flyway, with roughly half the number of known breeding bird species in North America passing through the corridor. Public acquisition of this parcel will greatly enhance efforts by Federal and State agencies to preserve for future generations the San Pedro River and its wildlife and bird habitat.

A second major parcel is the Appleton Ranch, consisting of 10 private inholdings intermingled with the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, adjacent to the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area southeast of Tucson. This acquisition will facilitate and protect the study of southwestern grassland ecology and unique aquatic wildlife and habitat.

Finally, the Forest Service will acquire four inholdings in the Tonto National Forest that possess valuable riparian and wetland habitat, water resources, historic and cultural resources, and habitat for numerous plant, wildlife and bird species, including the endangered Arizona hedgehog cactus.

Although the focus of this bill is the land exchange between Resolution Copper and the United States, it also includes provisions allowing for the conveyance of Federal lands to the Town of Superior, if it so requests. These lands include the town cemetery, lands around the town airport, and a Federal reversionary interest that exists at its airport site. These lands are included in the proposed exchange to assist the town in providing for its municipal needs and expanding its economic development.

Though I have described the many benefits of this exchange, you may be asking why we are legislating this land exchange. Why not use the existing administrative land exchange process? The answer is that this exchange can only be accomplished legislatively because the Forest Service does not have the authority to convey away federal lands in order to acquire other lands outside the boundaries of the National Forest System, no matter how ecologically valuable.

Of primary importance to me is that the exchange have procedural safeguards and conditions that ensure it is an equal value exchange that is in the public interest.

I will highlight some of the safeguards in this legislation: First, it requires that all appraisals of the lands must follow standard Federal practice and be performed in accordance with appraisal standards promulgated by the U.S. Department of Justice. All appraisals must also be formally reviewed, and approved, by the Secretary of Agriculture. Second, to ensure the Federal Government gets full value for the Federal parcel it is giving up, the Federal parcel will be appraised to include the minerals and appraised as if unencumbered by the private mining claims that detract from the fair market value of the land. These are important provisions not required by Federal law. They are especially significant given that over 75 percent of the Federal parcel is covered by mining claims owned by Resolution Copper and the bulk of the value of the Federal parcel is expected to be the minerals. Third, it requires that the Apache Leap conservation easement not be considered in determining the fair market value of the Federal land parcel. I believe by following standard appraisal practices and including these additional safeguards in the valuation process, the United States, and ultimately the taxpayer, will receive full fair market value for both the land and the minerals it contains.

In summary, with this land exchange we can preserve lands that advance the important public objectives of protecting wildlife habitat, cultural resources, the watershed, and aesthetic values, while generating economic and employment opportunities for State and local residents. I hope we approve the legislation at the earliest possible date. It is a winning scenario for our environment, our economy, and our posterity.

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