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New Land Exchange Proposal Introduced Into Congress for Oak Flat, AZ

In early August two bills were introduced into Congress that would transfer Oak FlatUS Forest Service land east of Superior, Arizonato Resolution Copper Company to develop a massive copper mine. The result of this land exchange would result in the loss of thousands of bouldering problems and roped sport climbs at the popular Oak Flat area. This issue is of longstanding importance to the Access Fund as it would result in the single largest loss of climbing resources ever. For more background, see the Friends of Queen Creeks website at www.friendsofqueencreek.com and www.accessfund.org/saveoakflat

The proposed law, introduced by US Senators Kyl and McCain in the Senate and US Representative Pastor in the House, now faces scrutiny by the relevant congressional committees that oversee public lands and federal land exchanges. At issue for climbers in the proposed Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2007 are the following provisions:

The permanent loss of bouldering and roped climbing at Oak Flat, although the Access Fund last year obtained a recreational use license to continue climbing at Queen Creek Canyon and Oak Flat up to five years following the land exchange if it passes. See www.accessfund.org/display/page/PR/40

If the bill does become law the climbing sites at Oak Flat known as the Mine Area and Euro Dog Valley will be closed to public use immediately; however, the bill provides for continued public access to most of the Oak Flat area for two years after enactment.

The establishment of a new state park for climbing to replace whats lost at Oak Flat. This area is, unlike Oak Flat, primarily roped climbing, further from Phoenix, and will cost climbers an entry fee. A state law http://law.justia.com/arizona/codes/title41/00511-16.html already authorizing the new state park, but the proposed 2-wheel drive access road remains a question mark in terms of construction and funding.

This land exchange must now overcome renewed opposition by local Apaches and citizens groups www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/93851 a new Congress generally more critical of land exchanges. The Access Fund will continue to work with Congress to ensure that the interests of climbers are represented in this proposed law.

For more information about the licensed climbing in Queen Creek Canyon and whats at stake for Oak Flat, contact jason@accessfund.org

 

Date: 8/15/2007