Letter: What is McCain thinking?

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently met with proponents and opponents of the proposed Oak Flat Forest Service campground congressional land swap copper mine in Arizona. He politely heeded Sen. McCain and other pro-mine supporters, but also heard the protests of Native Americans, local townspeople and Arizona conservation groups.

McCain's land swap bill requires that the mine's environmental and Native American cultural studies be truncated and time-limited. This is a drastic step backwards. Since 1969, when the National Environmental Policy Act was passed by Congress, all new U.S. mines (some 182 of them) have followed NEPA. NEPA is a law protecting unique and irreplaceable environments, wetlands and sacred Native American places.

The mine would be built by the world's two largest, richest mining companies, Rio Tinto (British) and Broken Hill Proprietary (Australian). One glance at the Web reveals two companies with horrendous human rights and environmental records throughout the Pacific. That McCain would be willing to restrict the application of our nation's environmental and cultural protection laws to facilitate construction of this mine by these two notorious scofflaws in this sensitive area challenges one's credulity.

Bill Witzeman

Phoenix