After 26-year delay, Trump Administration delivers Arizona land exchange
PRESCOTT, Ariz. – At the Yavapai County Courthouse today, Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt was joined by Congressman Paul Gosar, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Arizona State Director Ray Suazo and other public and private representatives to announce the transfer of lands between the Bureau of Land Management and the private sector company ASARCO through the Ray Land Exchange. This final step allows for the expansion of hunting and recreation access, responsible mineral development and significant benefits for endangered species, riparian habitat and established wilderness areas in Pinal, Gila, and Mohave Counties.
“President Trump knows that public lands must be managed in a way that provide opportunities for communities to thrive,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “This action allows for the hundreds of mining jobs to continue to produce American-made minerals – reducing our dependence on foreign producers – while also enhancing recreational and hunting access on public lands in the West.”
“The BLM is pleased to complete the Ray Land Exchange,” said BLM Arizona State Director Ray Suazo. “This land exchange balances the public need for hunting and recreation access, the mining company’s need to continue responsible mineral development and Arizona’s need for continued economic viability.”
“This administrative land exchange, which began 26 years ago, is a prime example of an equitable exchange that provides many benefits to the public. ASARCO is pleased to finalize this exchange and would like to thank President Trump, Secretary Bernhardt, his staff, and the BLM for all the hard work that was required to complete this exchange,” said ASARCO LLC, Vice President and CFO, Oscar Gonzalez Barron.
The Ray Land Exchange received strong support from elected officials and local administrators due to the potential for job creation and economic benefits. Sportsmen, recreational users, and ranchers will also yield significant benefits, including increased access, from the lands conveyed to the United States by ASARCO. The majority of input received during the comment period strongly supported this land exchange.
The BLM issued two patents transferring 9,339 acres of public land adjacent to ASARCO’s Ray Mine Complex and Copper Butte properties for mine expansion. This includes 7,196 acres of full estate and 2,143 acres of subsurface mineral estate, the surface of which is already owned by ASARCO.
In exchange, the BLM acquired 7,298 acres of ASARCO-owned land in Pinal and Mohave Counties through a general land deed, consolidating checkerboard land ownership in those areas, allowing better management of wildlife migration corridors, and improving access to existing public lands for hunting and other family recreation.
Federal law requires that the lands exchanged be equal in value, with no more than a 25% cash equalization payment included. In addition, ASARCO spent over $15,000,000 to finalize the land exchange, $12 million of which was directed to the BLM and BLM required 3rd party contractors.
Ultimately, it took 26 years to complete the Ray Land Exchange. During this time, frivolous litigation, and a 10-year National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process unnecessarily delayed hundreds of jobs and a minor expansion of an existing mine from taking place until now.
The Department has made significant strides under the Trump Administration to streamline NEPA reviews, stemming from President Trump’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13807: Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects. The Department issued Secretary’s Order 3355 in accordance with E.O. 13807, which implemented a new, streamlined process for infrastructure and energy projects.
The Order requires that environmental impact statement (EIS) documents be completed in one year and in less than 150 pages with exceptions for those that are unusually complex or in coordination with other Federal agencies. To achieve improved efficiency without sacrificing any science, quality, or legal sufficiency, the Department’s Solicitor’s Office is involved in each EIS from day one, and the Department’s Bureaus review each EIS in a concurrent briefing format rather than linearly. This has reduced EIS timelines by years per project.
A Notice of Decision was published on Nov. 4, 2019 initiating a 45-day protest period for the land exchange decisions. The BLM received and resolved three protests. The documents, maps and other information about the approved land exchange are available online at https://go.usa.gov/xEnKR.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.