TISN: US Department of Agriculture delays Oak Flat transfer

5 March 2021

by Carol Rose

This week we celebrate the news that the United States Department of Agriculture has delayed the Oak Flat land transfer!  Apache Stronghold lawyer called the decision a “stay of execution,” pausing the transfer of the sacred land of Chi’Chil’Bilda’Goteel (Oak Flat) to Rio Tinto and Resolution Copper mining companies.  

Immediately following a powerful week of prayer and action, including runs from the four directions by Indigenous nations to Oak Flat and danced prayers in that sacred land, the United States Department of Agriculture instructed the Forest Service to withdraw the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision (DROD) related to Oak Flat. As per a recent Presidential Memorandum on tribal consultation and strengthening nation to nation relationships, “the Department is taking this step to provide an opportunity for the agency to conduct a thorough review based on significant input received from collaborators, partners, and the public since these documents were released,” according to a statement from Acting Forest Supervisor Tom Torres.

With the FEIS and DROD withdrawn, 11 March 2021 is no longer a quickly looming deadline leading to the land transfer. One of the two legal actions in process to defend Oak Flat was filed precisely for this purpose and was successful, without needing to move through the court system. 

The primary legal action regarding religious freedom filed by Apache Stronghold continues.  It includes concerns about the 2014 federal legislation that promises the land transfer.  To protect Oak Flat indefinitely requires the success of this religious freedom lawsuit or the passage of the Save Oak Flat Act, or both, for Congress to rescind the transfer.

Take some time to celebrate the space, to breathe and act!  And, we ask you to continue in your prayers and actions. Share the beauty of Oak Flat and its significance to Indigenous life with people in your circles of care and influence. Organize for donations to support Apache Stronghold as they take action and pay their legal team. If you are from the US, move your congressional representatives to support the Save Oak Flat Act and contact your representative directly! Encourage your faith and moral leaders and your circles to pray and sign petitions.