Oral Comments by Nancy Freeman
Forest Service Hearing on proposed Rosemont Copper Mine Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Sahuarita, Arizona
Jan. 14, 2012

Federal taxpayers have spent millions for watershed restoration projects, reforestation and forest managemnt. Yet, here, the Forest will be destroyed for the sake of profits. In Arizona, the forest cover is only 4%, 43 rd in the U.S. When I complained to the Federal Forest Service officials that our local forest, which was created for the purpose of urban recreation and watershed was going to be destroyed by mining and questioned them how many trees would be destroyed. The Deputy Chief Joel Holtrop replied that they did not keep inventories on trees, but the issue would be handled in the Environmental Impact Statement.

When I questioned why the number of trees was missing from the EIS, Ms. Everson of the local forest service, retorted, “What do you expect us to do, get a surveyor to go out and count trees?” This reponse was surprising since she had told me previously how terrible it was that some hobbyist gold prospectors had actually upturned one tree while digging for gold. Why they could be prosecuted! So that memory came back to me: Just what is the penalty for destroying a tree in the National Forest—for I had counted them on an ortho-photo map. 33,000 mature trees were identifiable on the map.

The penalty comes under Title 16 – Conservation, Chapter 3, Sec. 551.

Here are the relevant exerpts:

The Secretary of Agriculture shall make provisions for the protection of the forests against destruction, to regulate the occupancy and use and to preserve the forests thereon from destruction; and any violation of the provisions of this section or such rules and regulations shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both. Any person charged with the violation of such rules and regulations may be tried and sentenced by any US magistrate judge.

For too long government workers have sat back and not taken responsibility for their actions with some excuse like “the boss told me to do it, or there's some old law which they never read.” We will show the world that in Tucson Arizona we hold the Forest Service to its motto that admonishes us to protect the forest. As the sign states near the proposed Rosemont Project: "For a healthy environment; keep your forests green." That's all that we're asking.

We citizens will file a complaint against the individual forest personnel in the Tucson Coronado National Forest for every single tree that is destroyed on our Forest Lands—and that's promise…. Grass seeds do not replace 150 year old oaks.