Stop CANAMEX, Stop the Intermountain West Corridor and I-11! Stop the Sun Corridor! Stop the 202!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Judge rules in favor of freeway, opposition builds

News spread on August 19th of the late decision by federal judge Diane Humetewa in favor of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway and against the lawsuit. A few days later, freeway opponents had an opportunity to confront ADOT at a Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning meeting.

Boos, chants and protests greet ADOT at Ahwatukee meeting on freeway

PARC announced it would file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit court.

Then, on Saturday, the Akimel O'odham Youth Collective posted the following:
Yesterday in a special tribal council meeting about stopping the proposed 202 freeway through Moadak Do'ag (Avikwaxòs in the Piipaash language), our elected leaders voted to file an appeal of the August 19 U.S. District Court ruling, as well as a stop-work injunction.
Later on in the meeting, several council members asked Osborn Maledon about how to strengthen our lawsuit as it heads to the appeals court. GRIC tribal members Andrew Pedro, Napoleon Marrietta and Linda Paloma Allen had prepared several suggestions to that effect. The content of our speech is posted on the Facebook pages for Akimel O'odham Youth Collective and Gila River Against Loop 202.
As a direct outcome of our speech, GRIC council made history today. The council passed a motion to request amicus curiae briefs from the sister O'otham tribes and from the Bureau of Land Management. For the first time since 1986, the GRIC government is consulting the other three members of the Four Southern Tribes about how to stop the freeway from blowing up three ridges of Moadak Do'ag/Avikwaxós.
As this case heads to appeals court, no new evidence can be introduced. The panel of three judges at the appeals court will review the same documents that Judge Humetewa reviewed. The case can now be won or lost on the basis of the added amicus curiae briefs, which can introduce new arguments. Our speech today directed GRIC council to request these amicus briefs.
As the tribe works politically to defend our lands, we know that the people will also come together culturally. We are encouraged by the support that has been coming together in the past week. As we have been directed to do by elders, we ask that you visit the do'ag if you are able to, to pray there and be with Creator there, so He knows we have not forgotten our relationship to Moadak Do'ag/Avikwaxós. If you can, bring a relative with you and leave an offering. Come back again to the do'ag and bring more people to pray with you.
In this way, we will unite culturally as our elected leadership unites politically.

It comes as no surprise that Judge Diane Humetewa ruled in favor of the freeway, taking into consideration her relationship to Senator John McCain, a major proponent of transportation projects. The fact that she worked as counsel for McCain in the '90's probably wouldn't be very relevant if it weren't for the fact that Humetewa was backed by McCain and other pro-development/transportation/corporate senators Kyl and Flake to be appointed to the US Supreme Court. Since then, Humetewa spoke at McCain's Sedona Forum this year, and donated the the McCain Institute.

Some were hopeful that Humetewa, as a Native American woman, would understand the importance of sacred sites such as South Mountain, and the impact the freeway would have to local communities. Clearly, her decision says otherwise.

We could also look at the fact that she was Secretary of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) at an important point in Resolution Copper's fight to gain the land near Superior for their copper mine that is considered sacred to the Apache and others. Humetewa's name appears on a 2013 letter from TNC emphasizing the value (in terms of conservation) of the lands Resolution Copper was offering in exchange for the land they wanted. TNC states in the letter that they were not officially approving the land exchange, but they had been participating with Resolution Copper since before the mining company began lobbying for the land exchange in 2005. TNC, the Sonoran Institute, and Audubon Society all helped facilitate the land exchange through their involvement in determining (and arguably, boosting) the conservation value of the sites the mining companies had to offer or could acquire. Some have questioned the value of the lands offered.

The Tucson Sentinel reported that, “Linda Kennedy, director of the ranch for Audubon, said a Resolution Copper consultant worked with her group and others, including the Sonoran Institute, The Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of Land Management, to identify parcels that would be of value in the swap...
7B Ranch, which contains one of oldest mesquite forests in Arizona, lies near the fragile San Pedro River. In 2007, Resolution Copper agreed to pay The Nature Conservancy $45,000 a year to manage the property.”

In fact, the idea for using a land exchange to gain the desired land likely originated from previous dealings between mining companies such as Rio Tinto and conservation groups (such as Birdlife International) to legitimize destructive mining projects through market-based conservation schemes elsewhere in the world.