Nearly a year after the Biden administration halted a land swap of one of the Apache people’s most sacred sites to a foreign mining company, the U.S. Forest Service has begun a new round of tribal consultation over what San Carlos Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler called “the future of Apache culture and religion.”
Barnie Gyant, Forest Service associate deputy chief, toured Oak Flat on Thursday and heard from Apache elders, representatives of other tribes, religious leaders and environmentalists about the sacred site.
Gyant was sent by Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to lead government-to-government consultation with tribal nations in connection with the land swap, which would hand over 2,400 acres to Resolution Copper in exchange for private parcels owned by the mining giant.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva was also on hand for the meeting and a tour of the area. Grijalva, D-Ariz., said the Forest Service should have started on consultation 12 years ago. He also praised the “new set of eyes” Gyant brought to the process and hopes the agency official looks harder at the religious significance of Oak Flat and the effects to central Arizona’s water supply.
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