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Updated Aug 15, 2014 - 3:39 pm

Critical bird habitat proposal could hurt Arizona mine

TUCSON, Ariz. — Conservationists say a new proposal for protected habitat
for the yellow-billed cuckoo in southern Arizona could impede plans for a mine
in that area.

Already, the proposed Rosemont copper mine south of Tucson has faced seven
years of delays. The mine was dealt another setback in May, when the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service announced it was restarting a review examining the
project’s effects on endangered species after an ocelot was discovered in the

On Thursday, the agency announced it was proposing to make more than 5,000
acres in the upper Cienega Creek a critical habitat to protect the yellow-billed
cuckoo, which in October 2013 was recommended as an endangered species.

“It’s just another indication that you could not pick a worse place to put a
massive open pit,” said Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity
in Tucson, which opposes the mine. “That’s really the issue for Cienega Creek,
for this bird and other species.”

The proposed mine would put an open pit in the Santa Rita Mountains and would
be located on more than 4,400 acres of federal, state and private land.
Serraglio says the mine would need to pump groundwater that helps keep the creek
running, eventually drying it out.

A spokeswoman for the mine said the company was planning a statement.

Steve Spangle, who manages the Fish and Wildlife’s ecological services field
office in Arizona, says the agency is taking into consideration any species that
could be affected by the mine.

There are more yellow-billed cuckoos in Arizona than in any other western
state, he said, and many of them live around the Cienega Creek.

“We’ll have to look at if the project is going to affect the critical
habitat,” Spangle said. “We’ll have to do that analysis.”

But it will be about a year before the area could be designated a critical
habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Service must seek public input before a final
decision is made.


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