Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation with a contentious history are striking a bipartisan note when it comes to land and mining issues.
The Arizona Daily Sun reports that Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar spoke Friday in Flagstaff in support of a land exchange bill that would permit plans for a copper mine.
The bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed on Thursday, would allow Resolution Copper Mining Co. to develop the project 65 miles east of Phoenix.
Conservationists and American Indian groups say the project could threaten sacred land.
“I don’t like our ancestral lands being raided by the U.S. Congress,” said Phil Stago, a member of the White Mountain Apache tribe.
Gosar said previous archaeological and historical investigations have not turned up any documented proof that the area was ever sacred to the tribe. Kirkpatrick said the Apache Leap, a cultural landmark, will not be part of a land exchange. The bill requires that a federal environmental study take place before any deal is approved, she added.
Kirkpatrick lost her 1st Congressional District seat to Gosar in 2010 but was re-elected in 2012 and this year. Gosar now represents the 4th Congressional District. The one-time opponents disagree on issues such as immigration and the federal budget. But the land exchange legislation has been a demonstration of unity that voters want to see more of from Congress, Kirkpatrick said.
“People have been giving us feedback that they like it that we work together and they want to see more of that,” Kirkpatrick said. “We don’t agree on everything, but if we can have that civil discussion today I think that’s really successful.”
Another issue they both are throwing support behind is allowing state and county governments to oversee funding of federal parks and recreation areas in the event of sequestration. They also both advocate a forest-thinning project meant to reduce wildfire risks in northern Arizona. Both, however, said the Four Forest Restoration Initiative has not ramped up as much as residents would like.
Kirkpatrick spokesman D.B. Mitchell said the federal legislators plan to hold more joint discussions in the near future.