Arizona Legislative Action Seeks To Keep Public Lands Open To Development And Exploration: Committee Passes HCM 2006
February 2009

This week, an Arizona Legislative Committee approved a Concurrent Memorial (HCM 2006) requesting that the federal government keep Arizona lands open to mining and other uses. In a vote that split across party lines, the House Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee voted 4-3 to send the United States Congress, the Secretary of the Interior, the Director of the Bureau of Land Management and the Chief of the United States Forest Service a message that Arizona needs federal lands to remain available for mining and other purposes.

Recently, the United States House of Representative’s Committee on Natural Resources passed a resolution to withdraw nearly 1.1 million acres of land from new mining claims and exploration and now the State of Arizona may officially be weighing in on the debate. HCM 2006 acknowledges that Arizona lands are significantly encumbered and controlled by a variety of federally managed public lands and other government designations (including 12.2 million acres of Bureau of Land Management surface lands and an additional 17.5 million acres of subsurface, 11.4 million acres of United States Forest Service lands, 7.9 million acres of military installations and 24.7 million acres of Indian tribal lands). It notes that the people of Arizona rely on access to public lands for various purposes including economic development, infrastructure, mining, oil and natural gas development, transportation, waterlines, electric transmission and telecommunication lines.

According to HCM 2006, Arizona’s economy relies on industries in these areas to fuel its economy and tax base. HCM 2006 states that the Arizona Strip is estimated to contain 375 million pounds of uranium oxide—the energy equivalent of 375 billion barrels of oil according to the United States Geological Society. Meanwhile it warns that the effort by Congress to withdraw these lands from new mining claims and exploration will cost Arizona hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues that help fund local communities and schools.

If passed, the Memorial will be transmitted to the federal government, asking that it (1) refrain from passing any new legislation to withdraw any lands in Arizona from mining; (2) refrain from enacting any wilderness designations in Arizona without the unanimous support of Arizona’s congressional delegation; and (3) does not limit the public’s access to public lands under federal jurisdiction for mining, grazing, recreation or other uses.

HCM 2006 is expected to clear the House of Representatives and move to the Senate within the next few weeks. The Lewis and Roca Regulatory and Government team will continue to follow its progress.

This Client Alert has been prepared by Lewis and Roca LLP for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.  Readers should seek professional legal advice on matters involving these issues.

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