BREAKING: Oak Flat Saved (For Now)!

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that it has withdrawn the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Resolution Copper Mine, temporarily saving Oak Flat from being transferred to a foreign mining company. Today’s announcement marks a stunning change of direction in favor of Native American tribes, climbers, and conservation values. But the fight is far from over.

Climbing advocates expressing support for Oak Flat conservation. Ancestral lands of Apache, Akimel O’odham (Upper Pima) and Hohokam. © Mike Schennum

“The tide just turned in the fight to save Oak Flat,” says Chris Winter, executive director of Access Fund. “After 15 long years, the momentum has shifted dramatically, and we now have to focus all of our energies on Congress.”

In the final days before leaving office, Trump’s political appointees at the U.S. Forest Service initiated the transfer of 2,422 acres of public land at Oak Flat to Resolution Copper by issuing the final EIS for the land exchange. Once the EIS was issued, the Forest Service had 60 days to complete the land exchange under a legislative mandate from 2015.

Access Fund and its partners quickly filed a lawsuit to prevent the transfer of public land and, at the same time, asked the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to withdraw the deeply flawed EIS, which ignored critical social, cultural, and environmental impacts that would result from the proposed mining operation. Today, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it has done exactly that.

Today’s victory is a historic achievement—shared by tribes, climbers, and conservationists—but the battle for Oak Flat isn’t over yet. The U.S. Forest Service just handed Oak Flat a temporary life line. Now the fight turns to Congress. To permanently protect Oak Flat, we must quickly convince Congress to change the 2015 law that paved the way for this land exchange.

Stay tuned for more in the days to come, and sign up for Action Alerts. We will need to activate climbers’ voices in the next phase of the fight.