Interior secretary disappointed at land swap in Defense bill

Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellCelebrating the contributions of the National Park Service at its centennial Greens flood feds with coal leasing comments Republicans push back on Interior methane leak plan MORE sharply criticized a proposed land swap deal attached to a defense bill that would threaten sacred American Indian land.

The swap is part of a massive federal parks and energy package that was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act and passed by the House this week.

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It would transfer the Arizona site of the proposed Resolution Copper mine — estimated to be one of the largest deposits in the world — to a British mining company, enabling its development.

The land, currently a national forest, contains a site sacred to the San Carlos Apache tribe, where warriors are believed to have leapt to their depth in the 19th century to avoid being captured by troops.

“I’m happy to see public lands bills make progress,” Jewell said Saturday, according to the Washington Post. “The preference on public lands bills is that they go through a typical process of public lands bills and they get debate and discussion.”

But she said the copper mine deal is “profoundly disappointing.”

Jewell’s department is responsible for most of the formal interactions between the federal government and American Indian tribes, a relationship that is sometimes subject to treaties.

Despite the disapproval by such a high-ranking Obama administration official, the White House has given no indication that Obama would veto the bill, which must pass to keep Defense Department operations active.

Vocal opposition in Congress to the land package has come from conservatives, who decry it as an expansive land grab by the federal government.

The Senate will take up the defense bill next week.