Endgame Premises Archives: 11: Civilization is a culture of occupation

From the beginning, this culture—civilization—has been
a culture of occupation.

Visit the global 11: Civilization is a culture of occupation archives for posts from all DGR sites.

Water: Southwest Coalition Statement of Commitment and Call for Allies

     by Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

            Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting over. —Mark Twain

More than any other area of North America, the Southwest faces water shortages just as demands for water increase. These colliding forces are inevitable products of industrial civilization. Deep Green Resistance chapters across the Southwest recognize the imminent catastrophe. We view the protection of ground and surface water, and the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights to their water and landbase, as critically important. We declare water preservation and justice as our primary focus.

Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition is a confederation of DGR action groups located in the southwest region of North America. While each group focuses on ecological and social justice issues specific to their region, as a Coalition we work together to reinforce each group’s efforts. Our members include:

Deep Green Resistance Colorado Plateau

Deep Green Resistance Sonoran

Deep Green Resistance Colorado

Deep Green Resistance Great Basin

Deep Green Resistance Chaparral

Great Basin Spring, Goshute Reservation

Great Basin Spring, Goshute Reservation

The Increasingly Arid Southwest

The region is among the driest areas in the world. The southwest receives only 5-15 inches of rainfall a year[1] and nearly all climate models predict an increase in both aridity and flooding with global warming.[2] As increasing temperatures force the jet stream further north and more surface water is evaporated (notably in desert reservoirs like Lake Powell where an average 860,000 acre-feet of water—about 8 percent of the Colorado River’s annual flow—is lost every year),[3] overall precipitation is decreasing even as summer storms paradoxically become more intense. And there is no margin of safety from which civilization can draw—the Colorado River, for example, is already fully allocated; all the water is claimed.[4]

Agriculture is far and away the largest water consumer: California’s Imperial Irrigation District consumes 3.1 million acre-feet of Colorado River water every year, compared to the rest of Southern California, which gets only 1.3 million.[5] Large amounts of water are also used for oil and gas drilling—an estimated 100,000 gallons per fracked well[6]—and coal mining and burning.

Lake Mead water levels. By Ken Dewey, Climate.gov

Lake Mead water levels. By Ken Dewey, Climate.gov

The water shortage is already wreaking havoc among wildlife. In California, the drought is partially implicated in the deaths of tens of thousands of native waterfowl. As water sources dry, birds congregate around remaining oases like fountains and irrigation ditches. In such close quarters, disease spreads quickly. Other victims of water scarcity in California include scores of thousands of bark beetle-killed trees—so much so that these results “herald a region in ecological transition.”[10] Unsurprisingly, 2015 is among the worst California fire seasons ever.This year, twelve western states declared drought emergencies.[7] On April 25, 2015, the largest US reservoir, Lake Mead, dropped to an historic low of 1,080 feet. That record surpassed the previous low set last August; Mead has never been lower since it was filled in the 1930s.[8] These conditions are unlikely to improve. In spring of 2015, snowpack in the Sierra Mountains measured at just 5 percent of normal.[9]

Desperate Measures

These unprecedented changes are driving ever more desperate and costly projects, such as the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s planned multi-billion-dollar pipeline project in eastern Nevada’s and western Utah’s arid basin and range country. If completed, the project would pump billions of gallons of groundwater to Las Vegas, threatening the Goshute Indian reservation, the livelihoods of ranchers, many rare endemic species, and the land itself.[11]

A proposed California water pipeline may move as much as 7.5 million acre feet of northern California water south a year. It was just revised to include only a third of the originally planned habitat protection, re-allocating water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Situated between California’s wetter north and its dry and populous south, the delta contains one of California’s largest remaining wetlands, home of green sturgeon, steelhead, and endangered Delta smelt.[12] More extreme are plans to siphon off some of Canada’s abundant water to California.[13] As drought and demand continue their increasing arcs, however, these desperate plans for massive water transfers become more acceptable to many.

The Only Sane Response

The government-industry axis takes water from the less powerful, regardless of any natural rights such groups may have.[14] This cannot continue, not even beyond the very short term. When the unstoppable force of increasing demand for water—continuing without limit—meets the immovable object of shrinking water supplies, environmental devastation and injustice swiftly follows.

DGR Southwest Coalition supports any protective or restorative action for ground and surface water, including the removal of dams and reservoirs by any means necessary. At the same time, we advocate for and support the dismantling of the systems (capitalism specifically and industrial civilization generally) as the only strategic way to safeguard the planet, and to keep it from degrading into a barren, lifeless husk. These are daunting tasks, no doubt, even if we limit our focus to the southwest; and yet, it’s a critical calling for all of us who care for life and justice.

We are reaching out to others who also view water protection and justice as values worth fighting for. For example, preserving instream flows (what’s left in a stream channel after other allocations) and groundwater protection—from fracking, from water mining, from surface contamination. We offer whatever expertise and resources we can muster, and all the passion we have, for our landbase. We’re ready to work with those who struggle with these problems; we’re also ready to take on whatever role is necessary in support of their fights.

This fight should be shared. Please contact us so we can network with you in pursuit of water, justice, and life.

swcoalition@deepgreenresistance.org

[1] C. Daly, R.P. Neilson, and D.L. Phillips, 1994. “A statistical-topographic model for mapping climatological precipitation over mountainous terrain,” J. Appl. Meteor., 33(2), 140-158, as displayed in http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/pcpn/westus_precip.gif

[2] Melanie Lenart, “Precipitation Changes,” Southwest Climate Change Network, September 18, 2008,  http://www.southwestclimatechange.org/node/790#references

[3] “Glen Canyon Dam,” Wikipedia, accessed December 10, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Canyon_Dam. An acre-foot is about 325,853 US gallons.

[4] Brett Walton, “In Drying Colorado River Basin, Indian Tribes Are Water Dealmakers,” Circle of Blue, July 1, 2015, http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/world/in-drying-colorado-river-basin-indian-tribes-are-water-dealmakers/

[5] Tony Perry, “Despite drought, water flowing freely in Imperial Valley,” Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-drought-imperial-valley-20150412-story.html

[6] Rory Carroll, “Fracking In California Used 70 Million Gallons Of Water In 2014,” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/02/fracking-california-water_n_6997324.html

[7] Elizabeth Shogren, “Senate considers legislation to help the West store and conserve water,” High Country News, June 3, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/california-farmers-fear-irrigation-water-will-go-to-salmon-instead

[8] Sarah Tory, “Canadian water for California’s drought?” High Country News, April 28, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/could-canadas-water-solve-californias-drought-1

[9] Ben Goldfarb, “Fowl play: California’s drought fingered in bird deaths,” High Country News, April 2, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/fowl-play-californias-drought-fingered-in-bird-deaths

[10] Keith Schneider, “California Fire Danger Mounts in Sierra Nevada Forests,” Circle of Blue, July 10, 2015, http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/world/as-california-drought-rebalances-sierra-forests-fire-danger-mounts/

[11] Stephen Dark, “Last Stand: Goshutes battle to save their sacred water,” Salt Lake City Weekly, May 9, 2012, http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/article-35-15894-last-stand.html?current_page=all

[12] Kate Schimel, “Gov. Brown slashes Sacramento Delta environmental protection,” High Country News, May 7, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/gov-jerry-brown-slashes-delta-environmental-protection

[13] Sarah Tory, “Canadian water for California’s drought?” High Country News, April 28, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/could-canadas-water-solve-californias-drought-1

[14] Ed Becenti, “Senate Bill 2109 Seeks to Extinguish Navajo and Hopi Water Rights,” Native News Network, April 4, 2012, http://www.nativenewsnetwork.com/senate-bill-2109-seeks-to-extinguish-navajo-and-hopi-water-rights.html

 

80,000 Acres of Land in Southern Nevada up for Fracking

By Deep Green Resistance Great Basin

Antifracking02

Editors note: this post comes from the folks at Save Nevada’s Water: Ban Fracking In Nevada. While the comment period for the BLM ends soon, public pressure and action against these projects can continue to be effective even afterwards. After all, these are supposed to be federal lands and federal agencies – we’re supposed to be in charge, not the corporations.

For those of you that haven’t heard already, the Nevada BLM has put out an environmental assessment on 80,00 acres of land they are opening up for oil and gas lease sale only a few moments away from Mesquite, and the Virgin River that drains into Lake Mead.

There is a comment period out until the 24th of July. We urge you to comment now and have your friends comment too. We have a goal of 10,000 comments in opposition to this gas oil lease sale. Please help us by copying and pasting the letter below onto this link https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/comments/commentSubmission.do?commentPeriodId=26082

And if you are willing please email the above letter to eyfoweb@blm.gov, or call the Ely district office at 775-289-1800 and provide your comments over the phone.

Letter to BLM Ely District Office Regarding the 24th of July Comment Period for the Environmental Assessment

Dear Ely District Office of the Nevada BLM,

I write to you today as a member and supporter of Save Nevada’s Water: Ban Fracking in Nevada, Nevadan’s Against Fracking, and as a concerned citizen to comment on what a horrible idea it is to frack in the area currently slated for gas and oil lease sales along the Southern/ Northern Border of the Ely and Southern Nevada BLM districts in Nevada that is also nestled in the Virgin River Valley.

The area as your assessment puts it “is a rock formation found within the analysis area are indicative of a continental plate margin converging with an oceanic plate.” The quoted line indicates that you are allowing the fracking of areas that are riddled with fault lines. These fault lines will only increase the certainty of contamination of our precious ground water and surface water resources. The area slated for fracking is also directly connected to the Virgin River itself which ultimately drains into Lake Mead. This further compounds complications that will arise from contamination as Lake Mead serves as the only drinking water supply of Las Vegas. The fact also remains that the state of Nevada does not require the full disclosure of the chemicals used in Fracking, which will also mean that neither you the BLM, nor the public will know what is being put into our water, and how to monitor it if at all. Furthermo re your assessment does not explicitly include details of how deep the water table goes in the area, where the fault lines of the area are, what level of interconnectivity there is between the Virgin and Muddy Rivers and the aquifers in the area. We have to assume that you the BLM will be relying on the oil and gas developers to do the aforementioned leg work, which is simply dangerously irresponsible and reckless.

Your assessment with regards to what fracking will do to the local flora and fauna is also lacking. Your assessment does not include any information as to the effects this lease will have on native migratory birds of the area. You rely only on the hope that oil and gas developers will adhere to existing regulations and assume that will be enough to protect sensitive species. The aquifers in the area feed water into the Virgin and Muddy Rivers which house endangered species, not just threatened or protected species, and you make no mention on the safeguards against contamination, and or an action plan for when contamination occurs. The area is also part of desert tortoise habitat. Besides the harm this lease sale will result in for the local ecology, there will be profound effects to humans in the rest of Southern Nevada.

If the fact that we are in a historic drought, and that the water that will be used for these drilling projects is coming from our own ground water is not enough reason to not permit the lease of these lands, then what about the protection of historic and cultural resources? The areas slated for drilling are also in the Moapa Valley, home to the Moapa Band of Paiutes. The area deserves to be free of this sort of irreparable damaging process. Your assessment states that “Less than 10% of the Ely District has been adequately inventoried for cultural resources.” And your report goes on to say “The lease of oil and gas parcels does not entail ground disturbing activities as part of the undertaking. Therefore, this undertaking would not result in impacts to Cultural Resources.” The above quoted statement is completely false and should be retracted. I would even goes as far enough to say that the person that wrote that line in the assessment should be fired, and put under investigation for corruption as I am certain they are on the take of some oil or gas company. In order to even get to the area to set up rigs, there has to be surface disturbance. What the frack is wrong with the person that wrote this section of the assessment?

I urge the Ely District of the Nevada BLM to reconsider the need to even offer these lands for oil and gas lease sales, and instead stop any and all gas lease sales until the process of fracking has been banned by the Nevada Legislature or Congress, therefore saving much of Nevada’s precious groundwater resources, and making the BLM good stewards of the land they can and should be. The BLM has many other issues to address like drought, cataloging cultural resources, ecological studies, and brushfires. Gas and oil lease sales should not be one of the priorities of the Nevada BLM. The fact is that the administration of the BLM can simply ignore the push from certain legislators and industry to lease land for oil and gas development. If the BLM of Nevada stops issuing these gas and oil lease sales, you will have the support of the people of Nevada in your decision to do so.

I appreciate your consideration of my comments, and respectfully ask that you stop giving a frack about the people and entities that are pushing you to hold these gas oil lease sales and act on the behalf of the public to be the best stewards of the land we the public, your real bosses want you to be.

Kindest regards,

YOUR NAME

PROTECT OAK FLAT: SAVING APACHE SACRED GROUNDS

Editor’s Note: This video, PROTECT OAK FLAT: SAVING APACHE SACRED GROUNDS, was produced by Paper Rocket Productions on Vimeo.  This is the accompanying text, also by Paper Rocket Productions:

For nearly a decade, Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, had unsuccessfully sought ownership of Oak Flat Campground.
Yet, on December 19, 2014, with the help of Senator John McCain, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013 resurfaced within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and was successfully passed by the Senate and signed off by President Obama .
The new legislation will open up Oak Flat for copper mining.

As part of the deal, Resolution Copper will swap roughly 7.8 square miles of land scattered across Arizona for roughly 3.8 square miles of Tonto National Forest, which includes Oak Flat.

Resolution Copper is required to work with the U.S. Forest Service to do an environmental impact study, however, they are guaranteed to get the land, regardless of what the study shows.

Also, the company has chosen a cheaper method of extraction called block cave mining. The aftermath of the mining will result in a crater two miles wide and up to 1,000 feet deep, destroying the surface of the land as well as generate nearly a cubic mile of mine waste.

Protect Sacred Sites
Special Thanks to:
Wendsler Nosie Sr.
John Mendez
Naelyn Pike

And all our Apache and Diné Relatives
Ahé éhé

Hundreds Gather at Oak Flat to Fight for Sacred Apache Land

As the morning sun rose high enough to burn off the chilly overnight temperatures, mesquite fires scattered throughout the Oak Flats Campground offered a warm welcome to a special day for Arizona’s San Carlos Apache tribe.

Michael Paul Hill/Facebook Protesters gathered for a day of spiritual succor at Oak Flat, the sacred Apache site that was all but handed over to Resolution Copper in the latest must-pass federal defense-spending bill.

Michael Paul Hill/Facebook
Protesters gathered for a day of spiritual succor at Oak Flat, the sacred Apache site that was all but handed over to Resolution Copper in the latest must-pass federal defense-spending bill.

Some 300 tribal members and supporters from across the country had gathered to protest the infringement of traditional Apache holy lands. There were Chippewa, Navajo, Lumbi, Pauite, Havasupai, and representatives of the National American Indian Movement and the National American Indian Veterans group, as well as non-indigenous supporters representing myriad concerns including those of environmentalists and other lovers of nature. All were furious at Congress’s sneaky transfer of sacred Apache land to a mining company and vowing to do what they could to see that it didn’t happen.

“What was once a struggle to protect our most sacred site is now a battle,” said San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler, organizer of the grassroots movement aimed at stopping transfer of hundreds of acres of ceremonial land to those who would dig a mile-wide hole in the ground in a search for copper.

RELATED:  San Carlos Apache Would Get Biggest Shaft Ever in Copper Mine Land Swap

San Carlos Apache Leader Seeks Senate Defeat of Copper Mine on Sacred Land

Arizona’s Apache Tribe represents a culturally rich society with heritage tied to Mother Earth. As a people, they extend a Hon Dah welcome greeting to all who wish to share their culture and history. But now they are fighting to keep their holy lands culturally sacrosanct.

“Our homelands continue to be taken away,” said former San Carlos Chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr., decrying what he termed the dirty way in which a land-swap rider had been attached to a must-pass bill that sailed through Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The amended legislation, with the support of Arizona Senator John McCain, was “an action that constitutes a holy war, where tribes must stand in unity and fight to the very end,” according to Nosie.

The legislation that the former chairman termed “the greatest sin of the world” is the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, which gives a 2,400-acre tribally sacred site to a global mining entity, Resolution Copper, that wants to destroy its natural state with a massive mine intended to extract an ore body located 7,000 feet below ground level. That ground is hallowed to the Apache peoples whose reservation border is just east of the proposed mine at Oak Flat, home to Indigenous Peoples since prehistoric times, a place where acorns and medicinal herbs are gathered and coming-of-age ceremonies are held.

Kicked off by earlier protests in both Tucson and outside Senator McCain’s Phoenix office, the multi-pronged awareness approach to mitigate the potential fate of Oak Flat picked up momentum via a two-day, 44-mile, march from the San Carlos tribal headquarters and culminated in a weekend-long Gathering of Nations Holy Ground Ceremony, “A Spiritual Journey to a Sacred Unity,” at Oak Flat.

Following a holy ground blessing, the morning was filled with traditional, cultural and religious dances, with Rambler dancing and Wendsler joining the group of drummers. The weekend of solidarity was epitomized by guest speaker and activist preacher John Mendez.

“What the system doesn’t know, what Resolution Copper doesn’t know, is there is nothing that can break our spirit and keep us from moving forward to victory,” Mendez told the assembled. “This is a protracted struggle, but if we stay true to task, we will win. A single flame can start a large fire, and we’ve created a fire that cannot be extinguished.”

The Apache struggle has become part of the ongoing battle worldwide for Indigenous Peoples protecting sites that are sacred to them because of the places’ importance to both spiritual and physical survival.

“This issue is among the many challenges the Apache people face in trying to protect their way of life,” Chairman Rambler told Indian Country Today. “At the heart of it is freedom of religion, the ability to pray within an environment created for the Apache. Not a manmade church, but like our ancestors have believed since time immemorial, praying in an environment that our creator god gave us. At the heart of this is where Apaches go to pray—and the best way for that to continue to happen is to keep this place from becoming private land.”

RELATED: San Carlos Apache Leader: ‘What Was a Struggle to Protect Our Most Sacred Site Is Now a Battle’

Yavapai-Apache Chairman: ‘Oak Flat Holy Sites are Central to Apache Spiritual Beliefs’

Spiritual Unity Can Save Sacred Apache Land From Mining

Despite Obama’s signature on the measure, the administration has expressed displeasure as to how the legislation flew under the radar to become law.

“I am profoundly disappointed with the provision of the bill that has no regard for lands considered sacred by nearby Indian tribes,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

The passage has created numerous schisms.

“The nearly decade-long fight over access to the federally protected land has ignited a feud that has split families and ended lifelong friendships,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

It also has united those who oppose Rambler, and the ongoing, nearly 10-year-old struggle has garnered support from more than 500 tribes, many who face similar situations with mining or development proposed in areas that other Native Americans consider holy. If this can happen to the Apache nation, it can happen to any other nation was the general feeling.

“We have a similar situation with an effort to build a tramway down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon,” said Lorenzo Robbins, a Navajo from Northern Arizona.

“We’re fighting a strong battle to protect Mother Earth from uranium mining,” said Uqalla, a member of the Havasupai tribe. “The responsibility of all indigenous spiritual carriers is to protect the earth.”

Rambler, welcoming the support, said it is indeed everyone’s battle.

“We must stand together and fight,” Rambler said. “We’re drawing a line in the sand on this one. We’re against this specific project because it’s going to desecrate and destroy this whole area and the Apache way of life we are accustomed to.

“This gathering and our direction in the future is to keep an awareness of the situation in the public mind, in the mind of Congress, and to let everyone know this issue is not going to go away,” Rambler said. “We need to stay on top of it every day to make sure our voices are heard. We’re praying to our creator god, asking him to guide us throughout this whole process so that we can win in the end and preserve what he created for us.”

Video: What Resolution Copper Wants to Inflict on Apache Sacred Land

 

 

The ‘Nation’s Biggest Mall’ in Colorado Will Destroy One of the Largest Prairie Dog Colonies on Colorado’s Front Range

Editor’s Note: This first appeared on Deep Green Resistance Colorado‘s website.

prairie dog kiss J

by Bellmeadow, Deep Green Resistance Member

Recently I heard news that our county (Douglas) was getting one of the nation’s biggest malls. The news simultaneously sunk my heart and angered me. Why the hell do we need another mall? To consume the world? Then my mind raced to the location of the mall, and the prairie dogs that live there. I had been worried about this colony before, about the strong possibility that the remaining colonies comprising hundreds of prairie dogs would be destroyed for some kind of development. After all, a Lowe’s store, an outlet mall, a housing project, and a tire store had occupied their territory and had already killed thousands of these dogs in the name of “development.” And this was the final solution for the 3,000 to 8,000 remaining burrows: complete annihilation of the prairie dogs for a shopping mall set to cover 170 acres in concrete.

Once the news sunk in, I called the town of Castle Rock, where the new mall is slated to be developed and spoke with the government official in charge of the construction. I was given the contact information of the individual working with Alberta Development (the development company constructing the mall) on the prairie dog “problem.” She was kind and helpful, as developers are trained to be when it comes to dealing with “pesky environmentalists” and let me know that the current plan for the prairie dogs was to cage them, kill them, and send them off to the nearest raptor farm to feed the birds. All the dogs. Hundreds of prairie dog families sucked up out of their only homes, caged, killed, and fed to the raptors. She informed me they had tried to find new places for them to be relocated, but had no success, so this was the only possibility left for the prairie dogs. She extended an invitation to help her find relocation areas with assurance that if we found a place, they would cover the costs for the relocation and support us in any way they could to make that transfer happen. All I needed to do was find private land owners in Douglas County who were willing to have prairie dogs on their land. I knew that in our county, it would not be easy to locate such land owners. Ranchers and conservatives have a long history of deep-seated hatred for these animals as they perceive prairie dogs as a nuisance and a threat to their cash herds and crops. Landowners by and large are perfectly willing to accept prairie dog extermination as good business practice.

Grabbing my camera, my next plan of action was to visit these prairie dog families and spend some time with them, to witness what was happening with the development of the mall. As I drove past the thousands of burrows, my heart was racing and sadness pulsated through me. I found a good spot to pull over and started to listen and watch as I walked among the dogs. Individual scouts were sitting on top of their burrows chatting away, relaying information to their families below. People studying prairie dogs have found that the colonies have their own distinct languages and dialects and have different words for coyotes, hawks, snakes and humans. They even distinguish between the different colors of shirts people are wearing. As I watched them chatting, I was imagining what it was they were communicating to each other. I assumed they were sharing that a scary person holding a strange contraption was encroaching on their homes and they were taking their necessary precautions. After all, it was just a couple weeks before when Alberta Development created a rock crushing area that destroyed hundreds of homes and buried their neighbors alive.

As I walked among their colonies, their alert calls became louder and several of them sat on top of their burrows with tails wagging in tune to their chattering warning calls. As I watched, they started to get used to me and stopped being on high alert. I could see them stretching out on the top of their homes and several of them were in pairs and were hugging and kissing each other while they were basking in the sun. One of the dogs wobbled towards me in a brave and playful manner until he lost his bearings and decided to race back to his friend for comfort. As I watched these families and friends rolling, eating, singing and calling out warnings, trucks, heavy equipment and one car after another raced around them with deafening roars. It didn’t require much imagination to understand how stressful and terrifying it must be to live in this chaos and danger every day, to be forced to witness friends and family being smashed by giant, smoking machines, to be evicted to far corners of their world, the only places left to survive, constantly uprooted by the encroachment of a “civilized” human world where malls and parking lots take priority over the living biomes of multitudes of diverse lives. This fate is what is left for all of them, despite their ability to thrive on the land for generation upon generation.

Prairie dogs are an essential component of the health and biodiversity of the prairies and are considered keystone species, meaning they are essential to the balance of prairie life. The biodiversity that exists in these biomes cannot remain in healthy balance without their existence. There are at least 170 known species that are dependent on the prairie dogs for survival and when the prairie dogs are removed from these areas, those other species can no longer survive and the prairies lose their biodiversity. Prairie dog colonies are the preferred grazing areas for ungulates; the nutrient-dense plants that grow there are a result of the dogs digging up nutrients that become readily available for the plants to absorb. Contrary to myth, there has never been one documented case of an animal being so ignorant as to step into their burrows.

Before the rise of the consumerist culture on this continent, prairie dogs were densely populated throughout the prairies. The largest known colony covered 25,000 square miles and was home to perhaps 400 million prairie dogs. The total range was about 150,000 to 200,000 square miles and the population of the prairie dogs was well over a billion. The colony here in Douglas County is now one of the largest on the Front Range, and consists of between 3,000 and 8,000 burrows covering approximately 150 acres. The prairie dogs are now reduced to three percent of their range and less than one percent of their population and are truly an endangered species, but are not labeled as such because of their inappropriate status of “pest.” Such labeling makes it easy for otherwise squeamish developers to do the dirty work associated with their elimination, and to sell this practice to the uninformed.

After my visit with the prairie dogs, I contacted the developer to inquire what my timeline was for finding a relocation spot. The developer informed me (in late November) that we had to find a home for them no later than late March. However, in working with the Prairie Dog Coalition of the Humane Society of the United States, I learned that relocating prairie dogs any time before June is problematic and carries a lower success (survival) rate. Female prairie dogs spend the better part of the fall and winter preparing for their babies by building a nesting room in their burrows. After months of working on these nests, they get pregnant in January and February. After giving birth, females tend to stay down inside their burrows until April to May, once their babies are mature enough to come out of their nests. If the colony is disturbed after they have had their babies between March and May, the babies and the mothers will be buried alive because they do not leave their nest area. This is why Colorado Parks and Wildlife doesn’t give permits for relocation to take place until June 1st.

The ground is also cold and often frozen in Colorado at this time of the year with little edible vegetation, making the chances for relocation success even slimmer. This is compounded by the trauma prairie dog families and friends experience from being sucked out of their burrows and spewed into cages, then transported (if they even survive that far) to an unfamiliar area leaving all these vulnerable animals terrified, traumatized and separated from their relatives, which is alone enough to kill them. Further, they face the dangers of being buried alive in burrows, crushed under the wheels of construction machinery, or being killed for sport by bored workers, spectators, or trespassers. Prairie dog relocation is harsh enough in a “good” time of the year, but in March the chances for their survival are bleak indeed. If these prairie dogs are to be given any reasonable chance to live, our priority is to convince Alberta Development to wait until June so we have time to find a relocation spot where they will have a chance to survive.

I once again head back to the remnant of what was once a vibrant prairie dog colony to contemplate the next steps I should take to ensure their survival. I see the thousands of burrows and hundreds of dogs spread across the landscape, surviving against the odds of a culture hell bent on destruction. The sun beams down on their homes and they start to chatter and run back and forth across the ground, to their burrows. All around them I see the construction starting to take place: the large dirt mounds, the huge trucks rolling back and forth, the rock crushing area that recently buried hundreds of them alive. What words did those families share with each other as their world turned dark, as they desperately sucked in their last breath of air as the oxygen left their burrows? What will the remaining families communicate as the machines of death dump concrete over their only homes? Will they have words for their holocaust? What words will they use if they are sucked up into cages only to be euthanized and fed to raptors? How will the mothers deal with the loss of their children from whom they are separated in transport, if in fact they are not killed along the way? All these thoughts race through my head and continue to do so.

All for a shopping mall. A mall we don’t need and don’t even pretend to. But life wants to live and these dogs need this land. They need a place that will sustain them and future generations. And the prairies need these animals. The hawks need them, the coyotes, the fox and the black-footed ferret. We need these animals, whether or not we choose to see it. We need private landowners who are willing to bring these creatures onto their land, not as a work of charity or penance for sins imagined or real, but to improve the biodiversity of the prairies. We need to fight for the prairie dogs, because they cannot fight against the machines paving their homes with concrete to erect more malls that are continuously failing in our current economy. The fate of these dogs rests with us, and it is not enough to stand by, wringing our hands as we witness yet another tragedy. We must stand together and put pressure on Alberta Development to, at the minimum, put off construction of “the nation’s biggest mall” until June in order to give these prairie dogs a chance at survival. And then we need to wake up to the understanding that prairie dogs are a keystone species on our prairies and begin to welcome them back home.

Washington Post: Proposed Oak Flat copper mine debate

When former miner Roy Chavez heard about plans to develop the nation’s largest copper mine near Superior, Ariz., he thought it might be the salvation of the economically struggling town where he’d grown up and served as mayor.

But as he learned more about the proposal to tap an ore body more than 7,000 feet deep with a method known as “block cave” mining, he changed his mind. Now he fears that the project would be environmentally destructive and limit Superior’s ability to develop tourism and other industries.

“Mining is the nature of the beast in this area. I support the industry and the livelihood it provides,” said Chavez, who comes from a mining family and worked in the Magma Copper mine nearby until it closed in 1996. “But there’s a situation here with this project that just doesn’t sit well with us.”

Resolution Copper Mining, a firm owned by subsidiaries of international mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, is seeking a land swap with the federal government that would give it ownership of 2,400 acres in the Tonto National Forest, where the rich mineral vein was discovered a decade ago. In return, Resolution Copper would give the public more than 5,500 acres of land it owns in various parcels around the region.

But the land the company wants to mine includes popular rock-climbing areas and Oak Flat Campground, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 designated off-limits to mining. Native American tribes consider much of the area sacred, and they worry about earth caving in and damaging landmarks such as Apache Leap, where warriors are said to have jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to Arizona soldiers. The proposed mining area is also home to at least one federally listed endangered species, the Arizona hedgehog cactus.

Resolution Copper says the mine would become the country’s largest source of copper – supplying half a billion tons a year and meeting a fifth of national demand for 50 years. It would also employ 1,400 people on-site during peak operations, for an estimated total economic impact of $46.4 billion during its 66-year lifetime, according to the company.

To secure the land swap, Arizona Sens. John McCain (R) and Jon Kyl (R) introduced legislation in 2009.Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) added authorization of the deal to the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, an omnibus lands bill that was pulled in late December in the face of Republican opposition.

[Editor’s Note: The Washington Post added this correction: “This article…incorrectly said that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had added authorization of the deal to the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, a bill that was pulled in late December in the face of Republican opposition. The provision was not in the bill as it was introduced, but it was in a draft version that was leaked and publicized by opponents of the land swap in early December 2010.”]

While McCain’s 2009 bill would have basically ensured the land transfer, Reid’s would have authorized the land swap with final approval contingent on the environmental assessment process mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act and approval from the secretary of the interior.

Jon Cherry, Resolution Copper vice president for legal, external and environmental affairs, said the company is confident legislation similar to Reid’s bill will pass in 2011. Along with McCain and Kyl, Rep.-elect Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) supports the project and recently toured the mine site.

‘This is a mining town’

Superior Mayor Michael Hing said the mine would make a “night and day” difference for the town that he’s watched shrink to less than half its former size – currently about 3,200 residents – since the Magma mine closed. Hing’s grandfather came to the area from China in the 1920s to start small businesses serving miners.

“We’ve been through the ups and downs of the boom times, when strikes happened, when mines shut down,” he said. “This has always been our livelihood. This is a mining town. That’s why we live here.”

But Chavez, who now works as a planning consultant and owns a bar, and other opponents say the mine would destroy the landscape, severely affect tourism and potentially contaminate groundwater. They are particularly concerned about the block-cave method, which involves blasting a space below the ore body and using gravity to harvest the ore. This leaves large empty cavities underground. There are several other block-cave copper mines in the region, 60 miles east of Phoenix, causing the surface to collapse and crack in some areas.

In an e-mail, Cherry said the company is doing studies to ensure that groundwater will not be contaminated and that natural features such as Apache Leap will not be harmed. He said the mine would increase rather than reduce tourism, and that part of the land swap involves the company transferring land ideal for rock climbing to the public.

“The mine itself, when it’s operational, presents an attractive tourist destination,” Cherry said. “We approach our project development with a long view where the mine serves as a sustainable environmental, economic and social stimulus locally even after it closes.”

Mine opponents note that the U.S. Forest Service regularly grants mining concessions on public land and say Resolution Copper should seek one rather than taking ownership of the land. They fear that if Resolution Copper owns the land, environmental impact studies will be less comprehensive and not open to public scrutiny.

Cherry said the company needs the land swap to carry out the environmental assessments and petition for permission to mine. Resolution Copper has launched a social media campaign to build public support for the land transfer, including YouTube videos and Facebook groups. Cherry said company polling showed more than 80 percent of locals support the mine.

Public vs. private

But Daniel Patterson, a Democratic state representative out of Tucson and southwest director for the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said Arizonans are wary of privatizing public land.

“This is a state with a substantial amount of mining, but also where people generally value public lands and want to make sure corporations aren’t ripping us off,” said Patterson, who formerly worked as an ecologist for the Bureau of Land Management. “This is a corporate giveaway. There is a lot of skepticism over the fairness – taking it to Washington, D.C., rather than really analyzing it on the ground.”

Nyal J. Niemuth, chief mining engineer for the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources – a state agency that promotes mining – said the Resolution Copper project would “be like the Super Bowl,” invigorating the industry statewide for decades. He said the ore body’s discovery a decade ago has prompted significant exploration – and economic infusion – as mining companies “are trying to duplicate the find, though no one has yet.”

He called environmental and recreational concerns misguided in a state that has staked its identity on mining for more than a century.

A report from the Arizona Mining Association says the industry had $3 billion in statewide direct economic impact in 2009 – employing 9,100 people, paying $151 million to state and local governments and spending more than $2 billion on goods and services from Arizona businesses.

“This is a bright spot in our otherwise dismal Arizona economy,” Niemuth said, adding that it is especially important since the economic crisis chilled residential development. “We’re not pounding a lot of nails out here, but we live in a very complicated world. Some people want jobs; other people . . . want to oppose things.”

President Obama signs land exchange into law signaling new phase in the protection of Oak Flat

By the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition

On December 19, 2014, President Obama signed the National defense Authorization Act into law.  The bill contained the Oak Flat land exchange.  This particular version of the land exchange was the 13th since the bill was first introduced in Congress by convicted former Congressman, Rick Renzi in 2005.  Senator Flake, who previously worked for Rio Tinto at their uranium mine (co-owned by the Iranian government) in Namibia, acknowledged what we all knew, the bill could not pass the US Congress on its own merits.

This is the culmination of 10 years of work by Arizona’s Senators and some Congressmen at the behest of Rio Tinto and represents a huge Christmas present for the international mining giant.  However, the bill’s passing is a lump of coal in the stocking of all Arizonians.  Senators McCain, and Flake did their best to subvert the will not only of Native American Tribes, conservation organizations, the Superior Town Council, and others, but the will of the United States Congress who has forcefully rejected the land exchange for nearly 10 years.

This new version of the bill does not turn over Oak Flat to Rio Tinto until 60 days after the publishing of a Final Environmental Impact Statement.  While this represents a major departure from normal procedure and limits any ability to mitigate or say no to the proposed mine, it does allow additional time, as the US Forest Service will go through the motions of conducting the process mandated by the National Environmental Policy act (NEPA). This process will take years and will allow opportunities for this mistake to be rectified.  Until that time, Oak Flat remains public land owned by all Americans free to be enjoyed and celebrated by all.

Rio Tinto and its supporters would like to think that this dirty underhanded deal will make our opposition go away, but nothing will be further from the truth.  Rio Tinto has finally shown how much it cares for the rule and process of law.  Like a schoolyard bully, Rio Tinto threw a tantrum until it finally got its way.  But in the process, the company showed its true colors.  Folks from all walks of life and from across this great nation and indeed, the world, are rising up against this miscarriage of justice and are clamoring to help us protect Oak Flat.

The passage of the land exchange marks the end of but one phase of our struggle to protect Oak Flat.  We have many avenues to protect Oak Flat and we will travel them all until we succeed.

Interior Secretary Jewell was very disappointed in the passage of the land exchange and said, “I am profoundly disappointed with the Resolution Copper provision, which has no regard for lands considered sacred by nearby Indian tribes. The provision short circuits the long-standing and fundamental practice of pursuing meaningful government-to-government consultation with the 566 federally recognized tribes with whom we have a unique legal and trust responsibility.”

“Although there are consultation requirements in the legislation, the appropriate time for honoring our government-to-government relationship with tribes is before legislating issues of this magnitude. The tribe’s sacred land has now been placed in great jeopardy.”

In a guest editorial in the Arizona Republic, James Anaya, the former United Nations Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, condemned the passage of the land exchange, saying, “it represents a shameful circumventing of democratic process in the face of environmental concerns and potential violations of the religious and cultural rights of the Apache people.”

These and many other powerful and well-spoken people are clear in their displeasure over Rio Tinto’s actions.

Arizona copper mine will hurt tribes and the environment

By James Anaya, for AZ Central

James Anaya: Rio Tinto should make some lands off limits to mining and abandon the project if it can’t gain local support.

Congress recently authorized an exchange of land so the multinational giant Rio Tinto can proceed with its Resolution Copper Mine project in eastern Arizona. The land to be conveyed to the company was taken from the Apache people more than a century ago, but Apache today continue to claim strong cultural and religious ties to the land.

The congressional authorization can be seen as a victory for the foreign-owned mining company. At the same time, it represents a shameful circumventing of democratic process in the face of environmental concerns and potential violations of the religious and cultural rights of the Apache people.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, with numerous other Indian tribes across the country, had successfully opposed stand-alone legislation for the land swap because of these fundamental human-rights concerns. Leaders in Superior had voted to revoke support for the mine.

The mining company, however, convinced key members of the Arizona congressional delegation to authorize the land swap through an amendment buried in the must-pass National Defense Appropriations Act.

The new legislation does not make the land swap immediately effective. Several steps will have to be completed, including an extensive process of environmental review and consultations. Still, it makes the land swap and eventual mining appear to be a foregone conclusion.

Proponents of the mine, including Sen. John McCain, have stressed that the project will lead to needed jobs and generate significant economic activity. But whether or not the American people or Arizonans will fairly benefit economically in comparison with what the foreign company will profit remains highly debatable.

In any case, most Americans understand that the prospect of jobs or economic gain for some cannot alone carry the day, lest all those places rich in natural or cultural bounty that have been set aside as national treasures would be at risk.

The owners of the Resolution Mine project, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, subscribe to guidelines adopted by the International Council on Mining and Metals establishing, in keeping with United Nations standards, that mining companies should work to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and ensure full respect for their rights, as preconditions to the implementation of mining projects that affect them.

Rio Tinto, especially, has worked to follow these guidelines with a number of its projects around the world, building what many human rights and environmental advocates consider to be good practices.

But the land swap authorization for Resolution Mine was not predicated on the San Carlos Apache’s consent or widespread local support. Instead, the congressional authorization came amid continuing disagreement about the environmental and cultural impacts of the land swap and eventual mining, through a truncated legislative process that altogether avoided confronting the points of disagreement.

Any chances of now meeting local concerns and coming to an agreement with the tribe have been severely damaged.

The only way that those chances might be bettered is for the company to make clear it understands that some places, because of their religious or cultural significance or environmental sensitivities, are simply off limits to mining, and to commit to refraining from moving forward with the land swap or any mining without broad local community support and agreement with the tribe.

The company should be prepared to alter its planned land swap and mining activity, or altogether abandon it, if the company cannot obtain the social license that broad local support and agreement with the tribe would provide.

S. James Anaya is a Regents’ Professor at the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law. He served as the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples from 2008 to 2014.

Time is Short: Where Do We Draw the Line? The Keystone XL Pipeline and Beyond

Editor’s Note: This article originally ran March 20, 2013, in the Deep Green Resistance News Service.  We are republishing the entire Time is Short series, and considering that the newly elected US Senate now has enough votes to pass approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and has made it second on its list of priorities, we think this is especially relevant.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is without question the largest environmental issue we in North America face today. It’s not the largest in the sense that it is the most destructive, or the largest in terms of size. But it has been a definitive struggle for the movement; it has brought together a wide variety of groups, from mainstream liberals to radicals and indigenous peoples to fight against a single issue continuously for several years. It has forged alliances between tree-sitting direct actionists and small rural landowners, and mobilized people from across the country to join the battles in Washington and Texas, as well as at the local offices of companies involved in building the pipeline in their own communities. It has also posed serious questions to us as a movement about how we will effectively fight those who profit from the destruction of the living world.

But it’s time for a reality check.

While TransCanada continues laying pipe in Texas and Oklahoma, the Federal government is deliberating over the permit application for the Northern Leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will run from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. Despite the overwhelming (and inexplicable) sense of hope that pervades the movement, there’s little reason to be optimistic that TransCanada’s permits will be denied. So far, the Feds have neither done nor said anything that could lead any sane or rational person to believe the project will be rejected. On March 1st, the State Department released its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which concluded that the pipeline does not pose an unacceptable threat to human health or the environment.

Yet as we have heard only too many times already, climate scientists—including former NASA climate science chief James Hansen—have repeatedly said that the Keystone XL pipeline would be “game over” for the planet, as it would provide an outlet for the extremely dirty oil coming from the tar sands.

Obviously, the pipeline needs to be stopped. We can’t allow it to be built and to operate.

Fortunately, opposition to the pipeline is widespread, and thousands of people have been trying to stop it. A series of rallies in DC, spearheaded by 350.org, have mobilized thousands of people calling on Obama’s Administration to reject the pipeline, and inspired solidarity rallies across the country and protests at TransCanada offices.

Yet appealing to those in power isn’t working. When the leaders of some of the largest Big Green organizations (including 350.org and the Sierra Club) were being arrested outside the White House in an effort to appeal to Obama to reject the pipeline, the President was golfing with an oil executive in Florida.

Those in power are going to approve the pipeline. Asking them to change is failed strategy; at the end of the day, pipelines—like clear-cutting, strip mining, ocean trawling, hydraulic fracturing, and so many other destructive industrial activities—are legal. Those in charge of an economic system based on ecological destruction and endless growth will always favor the needs and wants of that system over the needs and wants of all those—human and non-human—harmed by their activities.

Meanwhile, more and more folks have started turning to nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience to fight the pipeline. In North Texas, the Tar Sands Blockade has done everything it can to slow construction of the Southern Leg of the pipeline. Activists with TSB have erected tree sits in the pipeline’s path, locked themselves to equipment and vehicles, stormed TransCanada offices, gone on hunger strikes, organized protests and demonstrations along the route of the pipeline, and even locked themselves inside the pipeline. But unfortunately, it simply hasn’t been enough.

But despite their efforts, the pipeline continues to be built. There’s no denying that the sustained civil disobedience has delayed the project and forced TransCanada to fight hard for every mile of pipe laid in the ground; but they have the resources to ensure to overcome even the most strategic nonviolent direct action. When the Tar Sands Blockade erected a tree-sit in the path of construction, TransCanada altered its route and built around the protestors.

The reality is that TransCanada has the resources to outlast the delays and overcome direct action. They’ve already gone to great lengths to stop those who stand it their way; they hired off-duty police officers as a private security force and brought $50,000 lawsuits against the organizers of the Blockade. Make no mistake, TransCanada will go to whatever lengths it deems necessary to make sure the pipeline is built; they will threaten, sue, arrest, pepper spray, taser, torture, and force it through blockades and lockdowns. We don’t have the thousands (or tens of thousands) of people it would take to permanently stop the pipeline through civil disobedience; we’re fighting a losing battle.

Given all of this, it’s time to step back and take stock of the situation. It is clear that Obama and his administration are going to approve the pipeline, and there isn’t anything we can do to change that. It is also clear that civil disobedience has not been successful in stopping construction. So what options are left?

As James Hansen said, the Keystone XL pipeline will be “game over” for the planet. Stop a moment, and think about that.

Game over. Let that sink in.

Given what’s at stake (and what’s at stake is horrific), we need to draw the line. The Keystone XL Pipeline cannot be allowed to be built and operate. The tar sands cannot be allowed to be developed or extracted. They must be stopped. By any means necessary. When we’ve tried it all—everything from petitioning the powerful to civil disobedience –and at the end of the day, the pipeline is still being built, we need to recognize the need for escalation, including sabotage and property destruction.

That’s a proposition that makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. And that’s okay.

But when we’re left with the choice of either killing the pipeline or being killed by the pipeline, can we afford to rule out any tactics? When everything we’ve tried so far has failed, is there any choice left except more militant forms of direct action?

This isn’t a suggestion that anyone undertake any form of action they’re not comfortable with; we should all fight like hell, using whatever means we choose to use. But if some choose other means, such as sabotage or property destruction, we should not condemn or oppose them.

When the alternative is “game over” for the planet, anyone who chooses militant action to stop the pipeline is morally justified in doing so.

And yet, far from being extremist and unconventional, sabotage and underground resistance are threads common and integral to the cloth of movements for justice and sustainability. This is a rich history, and we should be proud to carry forth its legacy.

Even in regards solely to pipeline resistance, there is a definite precedent of movements using sabotage to fight otherwise unwinnable battles. In the Niger Delta, communities have been fighting oil extraction and systemic injustice, and wielding direct attacks on pipelines as a powerfully effective weapon. Following repeated failures of negotiations and nonviolent protest, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) began militant attacks on pipelines, pumping stations, offshore oil rigs, and other infrastructure in 2006. Their use of militant tactics has been devastatingly effective: they’ve decreased the oil output of the entire country of Nigeria by 40%.

On the other side of the world in British Columbia, a series of pipelines were sabotaged by the mysterious “Encana Bomber,” who repeatedly bombed pipelines and other natural gas infrastructure belonging to Encana, an oil & natural gas corporation. Local residents had tried to use the courts and regulatory infrastructures to protect themselves and their lands, but were trampled over by both Encana and the government agencies charged with regulating the corporation. Fed up with systemic injustice and environmental degradation, someone (or someones; the attackers remain anonymous and uncaught) decided to use any means necessary to fight back. Between October of 2008 and July of 2009, there were six attacks, and despite bullying and intimidation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, no one has been caught or arrested for the actions, and community members have openly expressed support for the sabotage. The attacks stopped in July 2009, when a letter from the bomber(s) gave Encana five years to “shut down and remove all the oil and gas facilities” in the area.

In both of these cases, those opposed to extractive projects (specifically including pipelines) tried to affect change through the established and legal channels: through government agencies and regulatory bodies, through negotiations, through lawsuits and court action. But when those tactics proved ineffective, they neither gave up nor continued with a failed strategy; they escalated. They knew they had to choose between taking militant action (and accepting the risk that entails) and destructive injustice. They chose to defend themselves, their communities, and the land, even if that meant taking more drastic action.

It’s time we did the same.

And while we so often consider even discussion of sabotage as a potential tactic as beyond the pale, militancy has played a critical role in past movements for justice—ones we are eager to support. The Boston Tea Party is upheld and oft-cited as a proud moment of American history, yet it was an instance of individuals destroying property; would we condemn the Boston Tea Partiers as “terrorists”? Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize and was elected president of South Africa after being freed from 27 years of imprisonment, yet he was in jail for sabotage and militant resistance; do we denounce him as well?

The Keystone XL pipeline must be stopped, and neither appeals to the government, lawsuits, nor civil disobedience have been able to stop the deathly march of the pipeline. If we’re not willing to even consider sabotage and property destruction—or support anyone who employs those tactics—when it’s that or “game over” for the planet, then we’re morally defunct beings, only hollow shells resembling those who hold any shred of love in their hearts. Do we really believe that the property of corporations is more important and sacred than the bodily integrity of real living people or the entire earth?

If not, then it’s time for a collective shift in the dialogue and culture of the environmental movement. We need to start talking openly about the possibility—and role—of militant action in the fight to stop the skinning of Earth alive. Make no mistake; this isn’t an exhortation to senseless violence or a call to walk away from other means of struggle. It’s a (truly) modest proposal that with literally the whole planet at stake, we put all the tools on the table. If we’re honest with ourselves about the situation we’re in, we don’t have any other choice.

Time is Short: Reports, Reflections & Analysis on Underground Resistance is a biweekly bulletin dedicated to promoting and normalizing underground resistance, as well as dissecting and studying its forms and implementation, including essays and articles about underground resistance, surveys of current and historical resistance movements, militant theory and praxis, strategic analysis, and more. We welcome you to contact us with comments, questions, or other ideas at undergroundpromotion@deepgreenresistance.org

Uranium Mining Expansion in Southern Utah

Daneros uranium mine in southeastern Utah

Daneros uranium mine in southeastern Utah

Original article by Liz Thomas, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Scarred landscapes, contaminated water, and deadly gases are current reminders of the historic uranium mining and milling operations in southeastern Utah.  Now a Canadian mining corporation, Energy Fuels, is proposing to significantly expand its overall mining operation to increase ore production at its Daneros uranium mine in southeastern Utah.
The Daneros uranium mine, located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, is surrounded by large expanses of spectacular wild lands.  Located five miles west of Natural Bridges National Monument, the uranium mine expansion is also near Cedar Mesa’s Grand Gulch, the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s Lake Powell.  These are areas enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors from Utah and around the world, many of whom spend time camping, hiking, and enjoying scenic tours on the public lands surrounding the proposed mine site.

The Proposal
Energy Fuels is proposing to expand its existing mining operation from the current 4.5-acre operation at the Daneros mine to 46.3 acres (a ten-fold increase in surface disturbance).  The expansion includes the construction of new mining facilities at the nearby Bullseye and South Portal abandoned mine sites, installation of ventilation holes, and the construction of new access roads.  The company’s proposal states that over the next 20 years, 500,000 tons of ore could be produced at the expanded mining operation – an amount five times greater than what is permitted under the current Plan of Operations approved by the BLM in 2011.  For more detailed information on the company’s proposal, see the BLM’s press release.

Energy Fuels is pressuring the BLM to approve this major mine expansion even though the company closed down the Daneros uranium mine in October 2012.  This closure resulted from public backlash at the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster and the subsequent market drop in uranium prices.  The company has not yet re-opened the existing Daneros mine.

Historic Uranium Mining in Utah
Utah and the other states in the Four Corners region have a legacy of thousands of abandoned uranium mine sites.  These abandoned sites pose health, safety, and environmental risks to residents of the area, visitors, and wildlife, in the form of continued air and water contamination.  The federal government has a history of ignoring known sources of contamination and harm caused by the mining and milling of uranium, and has failed to notify uranium workers and the general public of these risks.

This sad history coupled with the significant risks inherent in uranium mining underscores the need for the BLM to conduct a comprehensive environmental analysis of the proposed Daneros uranium mine expansion.  The agency must disclose the potential impacts of expanded uranium mining on air and water quality, wildlife, wilderness, night skies, scenic viewsheds, cultural resources, and public health and safety.  Additionally, because the risks of mining don’t stop at the mine site, the agency must disclose the impacts associated with transporting and milling the uranium ore at the White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah.  Incredibly, even in light of the history and risks associated with uranium mining and milling, the BLM is not proposing to analyze the project in a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement.

Uranium mining and milling is a dirty business, leaving a legacy of decades-old scars on the landscape of southern Utah. Accordingly, this proposed mine expansion should be denied.

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