KJZZ is a service of Rio Salado College,
and Maricopa Community Colleges

Copyright © 2024 KJZZ/Rio Salado College/MCCCD
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Land Preservation for Threatened Bird Further Impedes Mine Proposal

The Center for Biological Diversity
The yellow billed cuckoo.

A proposed mine in southern Arizona once again faces challenges because of environmental considerations. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to preserve more than 500,000 acres across the western United States for the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, considered for endangered species designation. Much of that includes Arizona rivers, which host critical habitats near the Colorado, Gila, Verde and San Pedro rivers and land including area proposed for a copper mine south of Tucson.

The Rosemont Mine project has run into several roadblocks since originally proposed in 2007. It was denied a water permit last fall as it was deemed it would damage local aquatic ecosystems. This past May, an endangered Ocelot was spotted in the proposed area. Steve Spangle with Arizona Fish and Wildlife explains how this could further impede the mine.

“We’ll have to look and see what the effects of Rosemont are on the Cienega Creek drainage and how those effects may affect the primary constituent elements of critical habitat,” Spangle said.

The area of the upper Cienega Creek in the Santa Rita Mountains is set for more than 5,000 acres preserved for Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity describes how Arizona waterways are essential for the species.

“Out of about 1,700 miles of stream that would be protected under this proposal in nine states, Arizona has about 573 of those stream side miles," Robinson said. "So, Arizona is really, on a state-by-state level, is the most important state for Cuckoos.”

What was once a thriving species in Arizona, populations of the bird have been impacted by irrigation, agriculture and development.

(Yellow Billed Cuckoo Sound courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity's RareEarthtones)

Andrew Bernier was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2016.