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Republicans won't be happy until they destroy every single tree in the USofA

It's amazing what garbage gets tossed into must-pass Congressional appropriation bills. Perhaps one of the most heinous in a long time was a land grab tucked inside last year's National Defense Authorization Act at the last minute, when no one was looking.

The Act included an eleventh-hour rider that would swap land between the National Forest Service and Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of Anglo-Australian mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. The deal would turn 5,300 acres of Resolution-owned land over to the US Forest Service, in exchange for about 2,400 acres of public land, including an area known as Oak Flat. No secret what Resolution plans to do with Oak Flat: dig 7,000 feet into the ground to get at one of the world's largest copper deposits.

Sounds like a good deal, huh? The Forest Service takes in twice the amount of land it gives up, and the company claims that its new mine will create 2,400-plus jobs and generate $61 billion in local and state economic activity and tax revenue. And the copper? Well everyone knows the world needs copper!

The company's claim would mean more "jobs" than the entire population of the nearest town, Superior, Arizona, and about "twice as much revenue as the Super Bowl generates in 50 to 60 years." In addition to pipe-dream numbers, such digging has invariably led to wide, barren pits when the land caves in. The town already looks like a war zone, with dozens of craters created by other mines in the area.

But this isn't just any area around Superior; this is Oak Flat, a stunning piece of land in the Tonto National Forest. It is a sacred holy place to the San Carlos Apache tribe, where tribe members have performed traditional acorn gatherings and coming of age ceremonies--mostly for girls--for generations. And there's plenty of archaeological evidence to back this up. The land has been protected since 1955, when President Eisenhower decreed it closed to mining due to its cultural and natural value. Even Richard Nixon's administration renewed the ban in 1971.

Ah, but today's Repugnicans feel no such need to preserve the sacred. Especially when both of Arizona's Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have been on the Rio Tinto dole. According to the New York Times, Rio Tinto affiliates have long been contributors to John McCain's senate campaigns, and Jeff Flake was a paid lobbyist for the giant Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium in Namibia before being elected to Congress. And they're not the only Repugnicans to try this: Former Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi was frog-marched last year to the Federal Correctional Institution at Morgantown, West Virginia for attempting to force companies to buy his ex-business associate's land so Renzi could repay a debt. In addition to his three-year sentence, Renzi was earned the distinction of being one of the "20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress," according to a report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Members of the tribe and their supporters aren't taking this latest assault on their land sitting down. Rallies and occupation of the Oak Flat campground began in February, and a delegation of tribe members were in Washington last week meeting with lawmakers to gather support for a bill introduced by Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva. Grijalva's bill would, if passed, overturn the land exchange and protect the Oak Flat area into the future.

That is, until a couple more corrupt Arizona politicians try the ploy again.


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