Opponents of the proposed Rosemont Mine filed suit Monday, charging that the U.S. Forest Service violated federal law when it invited Rosemont Copper officials to a series of meetings on the mine and not people of other views.
The suit says the service violated a federal law by inviting Rosemont officials or consultants to 18 of 23 meetings held in the past two years of various other government agencies who were supposed to help the Forest Service prepare a draft environmental-impact statement on the mine. Other interest groups, including mine opponents, weren’t invited to those meetings. Filing the suit are the group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas and the Center for Biological Diversity, along with Farmers Investment Co., which operates pecan groves in Sahuarita.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court asks for an injunction ordering the service not to publish or rely upon the environmental statement, or any advice or recommendation from the cooperative agencies. The groups want all future meetings of the agencies to meet requirements that allow for balanced views.
The Forest Service said Monday through a spokeswoman that it intends to comment on the suit but not until today at the soonest. In a Jan. 15 letter to the three plaintiffs, Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch said the cooperating-agency group is not the same as a federal advisory committee, which must operate under rules allowing for a balanced presentation.
The Rosemont mine would be located on the east side of the Santa Rita Mountains, about 30 miles southeast of Tucson.
The opponents also charged that the service violated the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, by not turning over a series of documents on these cooperative-agency meetings to meet a promised deadline of Jan. 31. The Center for Biological Diversity had first filed the FOIA request last Sept. 30, with a 20-day legal deadline for the service to respond. But the group got only a small number of the documents requested from the service last Dec. 31, the suit said.
On Feb. 2, Coronado Forest Supervisor Upchurch wrote the center’s Randy Serraglio, telling him that he had forwarded the FOIA request to the Forest Service’s Southwestern regional office in Albuquerque for further review.
The service is reviewing some of the records to see if they are covered by exemptions under the federal Privacy Act, Upchurch said.
“They will respond directly to you,” Upchurch wrote Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the center in Tucson.
Contact reporter Tony Davis at email@example.com or 806-7746.