U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Ray Land Exchange SEIS
Frequently Asked Questions
Ray Land Exchange Selected Lands
In exchange for the Selected Lands, Asarco has offered 7,304 acres of private land that they own that the BLM has identified as desirable for public ownership and management. These “Offered Lands” possess resource qualities considered to be of significant value to the public and have been identified for acquisition by the BLM. The highly valuable resource lands include parcels within or adjacent to wilderness areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), lands containing riparian areas, and lands that serve as habitat for endangered species and other special category wildlife species, such as the desert tortoise.
Ray Land Exchange Offered Lands
Why is the BLM doing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)?
The Tucson Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is beginning to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Ray Land Exchange. The SEIS will supplement the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued in 1999 and the Record of Decision (ROD) issued on April 27, 2000. The decision approved a land exchange between Asarco and the BLM for approximately 10,976 acres of Selected Lands identified for acquisition by Asarco in exchange for approximately 7,304 acres of Offered Lands to be acquired by BLM.
The FEIS and ROD were challenged by three environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Land Exchange Project, and the Sierra Club (collectively called CBD) administratively and in federal court, ultimately prevailing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in November, 2010. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) “in assuming without explanation that Asarco would perform mining operations on the selected lands in the same manner regardless of the land exchange.” The court recognized that Asarco has the right to conduct mining and related activities under the General Mining Law, based on Asarco’s mining and mill site claims on the Selected Lands. But the court believed that the manner and extent of mining was likely to differ depending on whether the Selected Lands are owned by the United States as public lands subject to the BLM’s surface use regulations at 43 CFR Subpart 3809 or by Asarco as private lands in fee simple, in which case the BLM’s surface use regulations would not apply.
Because the deficiencies in the 1999 FEIS are narrow in scope, the BLM has determined that conducting the analysis using the supplemental EIS guidelines is the appropriate tool.
What will be included in the SEIS?
The SEIS will supplement the 1999 FEIS by providing a “with and without” comparative analysis found lacking by the Ninth Circuit. This analysis will compare two scenarios of potential environmental impacts on the Selected Lands from mining operations. One scenario analyzes potential impacts that could occur as a result of mining activities on the Selected Lands if they are not exchanged and remain under BLM jurisdiction (i.e., mining occurs with BLM regulations). The other scenario analyzes potential impacts that could occur as a result of mining activities if the Selected Lands are exchanged and become privately owned lands (i.e., mining occurs without BLM regulations).
The SEIS will also address any substantial changes in the land exchange and any significant new circumstances or information that are relevant to analyzing the impacts of the land exchange (see 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c); BLM NEPA Handbook § 5.3).
What is the process to complete the SEIS?
The process to complete the SEIS is as follows:
Will the BLM conduct public scoping for the SEIS?
Public scoping is not required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the
When will the Draft SEIS be published?
The BLM plans to publish the Draft SEIS by spring 2015. There will be a 90-day public
How can I comment on the SEIS?
You are encouraged to take an active part in the Ray Land Exchange SEIS process, particularly during the 90-day
Why is the BLM supportive of the Ray Land Exchange?
The BLM is supportive of the Ray Land Exchange because the Offered Lands include lands that the BLM has identified as having significant resource value and beneficial for public acquisition. The Offered Lands parcels contain important resources and include lands within or adjacent to wilderness areas and areas of critical environmental concern (ACEC), lands containing riparian areas, and lands that serve as habitat for endangered species and other special category wildlife species, such as the desert tortoise. Benefits to the BLM also include consolidating checkerboard ownership of lands and the ability to manage blocks of lands within ACECs and wilderness areas and increased habitat protection for special status species and other birds and wildlife.
Why is Asarco pursuing the Ray Land Exchange?
From Asarco’s perspective, the primary purpose of the land exchange is to acquire fee simple title to the Selected Lands in order to consolidate Asarco’s land holdings and permanently secure Asarco’s rights through private ownership. This will prevent future title disputes and problems related to land ownership, which often arise in connection with unpatented mining claims and similar interests. Private ownership is important to protect Asarco’s current and future investment in its mining and mineral processing facilities. Acquisition of the Selected Lands also will buffer operations from surrounding land uses, facilitate property management, and provide for potential development and expansion in the future.
Asarco has mining and mill site claims covering virtually all of the Selected Land parcels, and have plans to conduct mining and mining support on these parcels. The exchange would allow for the private expansion of the Ray Mine Complex and Copper Butte properties. Benefits to Asarco include consolidating land holdings under common ownership, provide title security to support current and future operations and to provide additional land buffers for site security and reduce conflicts with other resource users.
Why is the acreage different for the Selected Lands and Offered Lands?
Land exchanges are not completed on an acre for acre basis. The exchange is based on the value of the land exchanged and not the direct acres exchanged. The appraised value of the Federal and non-Federal land need to be equal or within a 25 percent cash equalization range. The BLM completes land exchanges on an equal value basis with differences in value between the Federal and non-Federal lands equalized by either the addition or subtraction of lands and/or by a cash payment. Cash payments from the non-federal proponent may not exceed 25 per cent of the value of the Federal lands involved in the land exchange.
How is the land value determined?
The BLM secures an official appraisal of all exchange lands, which is reviewed and approved by Department of Interior officials. The appraisals take into consideration both surface value and potential subsurface mineral value. A current mineral report is being prepared during the SEIS process to advise the land exchange appraisal.
Will the Ray Land Exchange Selected Lands or Offered Lands change in the SEIS?
Upon final completion of the updated appraisals, Asarco and BLM may need to modify the Offered Lands and/or the Selected Lands package (proposed action) that was originally proposed for exchange so that the appraised values of the Selected and Offered Lands are roughly equal. Cash equalization within applicable regulatory parameters may be used after making all reasonable efforts to equalize values by excluding lands. In such event, values would be equalized by the payment of money to the BLM as the circumstances require so long as payment does not exceed 25 percent of the total value of the lands or interests transferred out of federal ownership pursuant to 43 U.S.C. §1716 (b). No new lands will be added to the Ray Land Exchange proposal. It is possible that some lands will be removed to meet exchange valuation requirements.
What activities will occur on the Selected Lands if provided to Asarco?
Foreseeable uses for the Selected Lands include expansion of open pit operations, haul roads, leach and rock deposition areas, access roads, storm water facilities, and administrative facilities. Some parcels will be used as buffer areas and contain limited or no mining activity. Asarco holds unpatented mining claims and mill sites on virtually all of the Selected Lands and holds title to the surface estate of certain parcels. Consequently, under all alternatives, the foreseeable uses of the Selected Lands are mining or activities related to mining. Although in some instances, the activities do not require authorization under the Mining Laws (for example, lands that will serve as buffer) and are not subject to regulation under the Subpart 3809 regulations. The SEIS will provide a description of foreseeable uses to the extent they can reasonably be determined based on current knowledge about Asarco’s future operations.
What activities will occur on the Offered Lands?
If the exchange is approved, the Offered Lands would be managed by BLM to preserve and enhance environmental resource values through resources analysis, habitat protection, recreation and access management, etc. The lands would be managed under guidance of the Kingman Area and Tucson Area Resource Management Plans (RMP).
What BLM regulations and guidelines oversee the Land Exchange process?
Land exchanges are generally conducted under the authority contained in Sections 102, 205, 206 and 207 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA, 90 Stat. 2743; 43 U.S.C. 1715, 1716 and 1717). FLPMA was amended in 1988 by the Federal Land Exchange Facilitation Act (FLEFA, 102 Stat. 1087). FLEFA contains provisions to facilitate and expedite land exchanges by establishing uniform rules and regulations for appraisals, and procedures and guidelines for resolution of appraisal disputes.
The BLM Land Exchange Handbook H-2200-1 (Public) details the BLM land exchange processing steps. The handbook provides specific guidance for the consideration of land exchanges to ensure that statutory and regulatory requirements are followed and that the public interest is protected.
How are the Offered Lands comparable to the Selected Lands if they are dispersed around the state?
The Selected Lands are to be developed and used for mining activities. The Offered Lands will be acquired by the federal government for their natural resource values and because parcels are within or adjacent to wilderness areas and ACEC, lands containing riparian areas, and lands that serve as habitat for endangered species and other special category wildlife species. The Offered Lands are not comparable to the selected lands in any way except that they will be adjusted in size to have close to comparable monetary value before the trade is finalized. Separate and specific appraisals will be done for each property component and the valuation results will be calculated for each side of the exchange. Our initial estimate is that the values of the Offered Lands are close to being equal.