Army walks back Trump-era ban on consultations with tribes over wash regulation

The Rosemont Mine would be situated in this area of the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson./Rob Scott/Cronkite News

By Tony Davis | Arizona Daily Star

The U.S. Army is backing off a policy issued in the Trump administration’s waning days barring the Army Corps of Engineers from consulting with tribes over its authority to protect individual water courses.

This reversal of position leaves unclear, however, whether it will also reverse a more recent Army Corps decision to withdraw jurisdiction over the proposed Rosemont Mine — the issue that originally triggered the broader tribal consultation decision.

Opponents of the $2 billion Rosemont project in the Santa Rita Mountains said the Army Corps should now revisit its March 24 Rosemont decision. Army officials did not respond to requests for comment on that.

A top official in the Biden administration Army secretary’s office wrote a memo last week rescinding the Trump administration stance. In January, the assistant Army secretary’s office had laid down a ban on tribal consultation on jurisdictional decisions “as a matter of nationwide programmatic policy.”

The ban forbade the Army Corps of Engineers from formal discussions with tribes on its authority over streams and washes under the federal Clean Water Act, said the Jan. 8 memo from R.D. James, then-assistant Army secretary for civil works.

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