Check back often. Updated 5/23/07. Most current updates in RED older updates in yellow
Thanks for checking out this page, which is basically a resource for folks interested in preserving the San Rafael Valley of Southern Arizona, but also the many other natural treasures in the area. If you've been enchanted by the lovely valley and it's surroundings, you already know why it's worth protecting, but here are some links to things you may not have known about the valley.
UPDATE: 5-23-07 Key to our efforts is reforming the 1872 mining law.
West Virginia congressmanNick Rahal
Has a bill, HR
2262 that will reform the antiquated 1872 law. On May 10, 2007 it was
referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Click
here for contact information. IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING TO HELP NATURE
THIS YEAR, SUPPORT HR 2262 ! Most bill's die in committee, Congressman Rahal
has been trying to get this bill signed into law for 10 YEARS already.
UPDATE: 5-18-07 Phelps Dodge has staked active
Telephone (602) 542-4331
District 25 state reps:
Manuel V. Alvarez 25 D firstname.lastname@example.org 602-926-5895 Fax 602-417-3025
Jennifer J. Burns 25 R email@example.com 602-926-5836 Fax 602-417-3125
|Click here for claims update !|
|Phelps Dodge Graciously provided a map of their claims in the San Rafael which I compiled into this Valley Map Current on May 4 2007. Visible are the Vaca, Ki-He-Kah, Little Outfit, Toot, Walking J and Lazy J2 ranches, boxed in yellow. PD Claims on state land Blue, Forest land Red. Green line is forest boundary. Pink line is Arizona Trail. Preliminary claims cover roughly 4 square miles, 2560 acres. Put your mouse over the map to see a larger version, which also shows the San Rafael State Natural Area.|
From the first Europeans arrival, until the early 2,000's, the valley was
used for rangeland and recreation. Largely left intact, and undisturbed,
It is the last remaining shortgrass prairie in the state that is almost
BHP Billiton began searching for Porphyry copper deposits. Now, Freeport/Phelps
Dodge Has staked claims in the valley. They are two of the very largest
mining companies in the world.
link will take you to the contact info for our two Senators, John Mc Cain
and Jon Kyl, and our Representative, Gabriel Giffords. Let them all know you
The San Rafael Valley Association (S.R.V.A.) was formed in 1976 with the sole intention of protecting this extremely special area; especially it's plants and animals from all forms of environmental pollution, degradation, or destruction. As a nonprofit organization focusing on education we send this letter to educate it's recipients on just how rare and unique this area is, even in a state such as Arizona, that is known the world over for it's natural beauty and wonder. The impetus for this letter is the early phase prospecting recently conducted in the valley by BHP Billiton, the worlds largest mining company.
The "area of interest" (the area, from here on) consists of the core (the actual San Rafael Valley) and it's immediate surroundings (Huachuca and Patagonia Mountains, and Canelo Hills). They are intertwined physically and visually. Allowing damage to occur in the surrounding mountains would impact the watershed, wildlife corridors, and the solitude and splendor of the many vistas within. Starting at Monument 100 on the international border, the boundaries of the area arc Northerly and Westerly to Ashburn Mt. In the Canelo Hills, and then in a Southerly and Westerly arc back to the international border, which it follows 27.5 miles back to Monument 100. This takes in the entire watershed, and much of the "viewshed" of the San Rafael Valley, A sparsely inhabited area, which is now (and has been for more than 150 years) predominantly grazing lands.
The grasslands in the center of the valley are primarily in private hands, anchored by the 25 square miles of the Spanish land grant, San Rafael de la Zanja. The grant is protected by a conservation easement, as are some other private holdings. The grasslands are the least disturbed of the three remaining examples of short-grass prairie left in the U.S. between West Texas and California, the other two being the Sonoita Creek and the Babocomari River, both of which have multiple paved roads including 2 State highways in each watershed, as well as significant commercial establishments, and multiple residences. There are only 3.4 miles of paved road in the area, upstream from Parker Canyon Lake.
The residents of the valley have opted for underground utility lines to preserve the open views, and also use lighting sparingly so that day or night, the magnificent vistas visible from many high points in the area reveal almost no signs of human presence. The sense of isolation and solitude is almost as complete on the windswept ridges and peaks, as it is in the canyons where the scattering of mature oaks among the grasslands evokes a feeling of other states, or even continents. It's easy enough to forget one is still in the Sonoran Desert Region.
This vast open landscape is a major attraction on the first three segments
of the Arizona Trail. From the start of the trail on the Coronado National
Memorial, all but 11 of the first 55 miles of the trail are in the area. Indeed,
there are several views from the Trail where the developed valleys of the
San Pedro River and Sonoita Creek stand in stark contrast to the San Rafael
Valley. The area not only contains parts of the Coronado National Memorial,
and the Miller Peak Wilderness, it contains the Arizona
State Parks San Rafael Ranch Natural Area .
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that the "Madrean sky island" bioregion, of which the valley is part, harbors the greatest diversity of mammal species in all of North America (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 1978). The Nature Conservancy considers the area among the top 10 priorities for conservation in the Sonoran eco-region. The relatively pristine riparian area bisecting the rare short grass prairie, which is surrounded by forested hills and mountains looming from 1,000 to 4,000 feet higher than the river combine to make an outstandingly unique biotic community. It includes one of just a few perennial grassland streams left in the region, and supports a wide variety of wildlife, including several state and federally listed endangered or threatened species. It is also critical habitat on the Pacific Flyway; both bald and golden eagles winter in the area. As the river flows south into Mexico (the valley is also known worldwide for its beauty and biological diversity) there are also international implications. The area stands out in the Sonoran Desert region, one of the most ecologically and culturally diverse regions in the world, which has been selected as the National Geographic Society's fifth geotourism project and the first to cross an international border
The following is a list of endangered, threatened and sensitive species in
The surface water is of excellent quality, and the headwaters represent a critical water resource in Southern Arizona. Additionally, the water table is of excellent quality, and is from 10 to 30 feet below the surface in the bottomlands, and only a couple hundred feet deep in most of the periphery. This means that the water in the area would be extremely sensitive to the massive soil disturbances caused by modern mining activity. While the scattered shafts and remnants of past mining activity are a link to the past and are for some people a recreational and scenic value, their visual impact is minor compared to the type of open pit mine most likely to be developed to recover the types and concentrations of metals that may be in the area. It is important to note that all the diggings in the surrounding mountains combined probably do not account for the same amount of digging as one modern pit mine likely would. We would like to see these old sites remain as a link to the past, as we look to the area's future in rangeland, recreation and residences, all strong economic engines in the region, which would be negatively impacted by any large scale mining operation.
On behalf of the S.R.V.A. and all the hikers, bikers, hunters, ranchers, bird watchers, equestrians, sightseers, campers, and photographers, and all the wild lands, waters, and life forms that call the area home, we ask that you consider joining us in working to protect this important area.
The Valley is in a National Heritage Area, contains a State Park, has views into two nearby Wilderness Areas, is the gateway to the Arizona Trail (The Arizona Trail is up for designation as a National Scenic Trail, it's first four segments pass through or look into the Valley) is the headwaters of the Santa Cruz river ( an international waterway and source of water), and is the last place like it in all the Southwest.
This area is unique in all the Southwest, largely due to efforts of the residents and groups such as the AZ State Parks, The Nature Conservancy and others to protect it in myriad small and large ways. All these efforts will be worthless if a large mining operation is established here.
Once a mine is established, it is impossible to restore the delicately balanced natural systems that are currently in place. Conversely, Setting them aside does not diminish the ore bodies, it reserves them for possible future needs, and increases their value.
Tourism and development are the economic engines in the county. They both provide steady growth and long term income for the county, the cities and towns in the county and the residents. Multiple small and medium sized local business depend on the wild and scenic nature of the public and private lands in the area. Long after any proposed mines are decommissioned, these businesses will be a vital part of our economic security.
Modern mining provides far fewer jobs than it did in the past due to mechanization and technology. The boom and bust cycle of mining still makes it volatile and undependable, and guarantees that there will be job losses when the ores play out, or economic forces undermine their profitability. There will also be the liability of the degraded areas.
Recreation, grazing, rock hounding, hunting, and Timber harvest are all uses compatible with each other, and that can continue in perpetuity without damaging the lands, waters, or wildlife in and on the national forests. Mining is a destructive use, which diminishes or destroys the existing natural areas for ALL other users.
It is the policy of the Congress that the national forests are established and shall be administered for outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes. Mining activities compromise all these other uses.
It is past time for us to switch from a destructive and wasteful extractive model to a more sustainable model based on reducing waste, and recycling waste. As a nation and as a PLANET, we must change our habits in order to sustain our quality of life.
Mining is a short term boost to the local economy, at the expense of long term assets such as tourism and development. A house built is a permanent addition to the tax roles, and source of income for the service sector ( landscapers, phone, electric etc.) A mine is Guaranteed to turn from a positive to a negative economic input, and to damage the value of surrounding lands.
There comes a time in all human endeavors when we have to take stock of what we've been doing, and assess the best way to continue, or if we should continue at all. We are well past the point when sensible people would have already done so regarding our wasteful extractive economy, and decided that things have to change, that our behavior is not sustainable. In fact, many people have, but big money and corporate power have an enormous amount of resources and momentum carrying them forward. Large segments of government are also complicit, it seems that the quick buck and the right now are more important to these people than sustainability or long-term effects. Whether it's coal in Kentucky, or Copper in Arizona, these people feel that tearing apart the landscapes to retrieve the valuable ores trumps all else. They have no concern for the animals, the waters, or the unique landscapes that are forever altered or destroyed by their actions. So it is up to us, the average citizen, to lead the way.
Here in Santa Cruz County, we are blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, and fortunately many of the people who live here were drawn by it, and so are aware of how special and deserving of protection this area is. We already have strong protection in place for parcels such as Las Cienegas NCA, and Mount Wrightson wilderness, and the Miller peak wilderness across the line in Cochise county compliments them, but we need to do more. Rather than having these areas remain islands in a sea of unprotected lands, let's connect them with widespread protection to the surrounding lands. What use is it to preserve the wide-open beauty of Las Cienegas, if an enormous open pit mine looms over it?
Farsighted individuals and members of the county government as well as the
Patagonia town council have come to the conclusion that destructive mining
practices do not pay out over the long term anywhere near as much as tourism
and moderate development do. Build a mine, and you guarantee a decline in
productivity and decommissioning (with unemployment for the workers), devaluation
of adjoining properties, and permanent negative impacts to the environment.
Build a home and you guarantee a permanent addition to the tax roles, and
job security for the businesses that serve people, such as landscapers, cafes,
etc. Mining not only destroys unique areas, it affects the nearby areas with
damage to the air and water quality, the scenic views, and increased heavy
vehicle traffic. Additionally, technology has improved productivity to the
point that mines create about 1 tenth the jobs that they used to, at the same
time they produce much more tailings and overburden than in the past.
Thoughts from an area resident:
What would a San Rafael Valley mine do to the Santa Cruz River? Few
There is special interest in the Santa Cruz County oak-grasslands by
The San Rafael Valley is not only a biologically important area due to it's unique combination of habitat, wildlife, and limited human activity, it is a well preserved remnant of habitat which was once more abundant in the Southwest, and is an important watershed for Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora Mexico.
Economically, it is an important asset to the thriving tourism trade
in the area, and is part of the fledgling geo-tourism
area being introuduced by the Sonoran
Institute and the National
Geogaphic as well as part of a proposed National
Heritage Area. It is the Gateway to The Arizona
trail which is being considered for National Scenic Trails designation,
and home to several significant historical and archealogical sites, including
the an Arizona
State Parks Natural area,
Spiritually it is a place of great natural beauty, wonder, and solitude. Whatever your specific beliefs, the hand of the creator is evident here. It is a great place to relax and melt into the natural rythms of your surroundings.
Copper mining is important, but so are special places like the San Rafael Valley
The members of this commitee can be reached by the
Members of the
MR. NICK J. RAHALL, II, West Virginia, Chairman
( Democrats )
Dale E. Kildee, Michigan
Mr. Jim Costa, California, Chairman
( Democrats )
( Republicans )
Jim Saxton, New Jersey
( Republicans )
Below are the newest claim maps. Fuschia is additional
claim boundary, Blue is Arizona Trail. Yes, the claims include the Arizona
Rollover image, additional claims are in Turquios.