When it comes to the Coronado National Forest, the federal government shutdown isn't just forcing closure of parking lots at Sabino and Madera Canyon and of campgrounds on Mount Lemmon. It's also halting Forest Service work on the Rosemont Mine's environmental impact statement. If the shutdown continues for an extended period -- which is anybody's guess at this moment -- that means one more delay for an already long-delayed project.
In mid-September, Coronado Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch announced that he was putting off release of a final Rosemont environmental report from his original, hoped-for date of Sept. 27 until sometime in November. That meant that due to new Forest Service rules that took effect on Sept. 27, his formal decision on the mine will also be delayed, up to four months after the final EIS was released.
On Monday, when he was asked about a then-likely federal shutdown on Rosemont, Upchurch said, "That's speculative at this point. The Forest Service will continue working as much as we can. I don't know how long or short of a shutdown it could be."
But, he added, "obviously, if we're not working for a month, logic would tell you" that the mine environmental impact statement wouldn't be worked on during that time.
On Friday, Upchurch said he was the only Forest Service official working in the Coronado National Forest office, and that he was working mainly to oversee the shutdown of recreational facilities such as campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads with restrooms. Accordingly, the Rosemont EIS isn’t getting any attention from the Forest Service, and isn’t going to as long as the shutdown lasts.
SWCA, a Forest Service contractor, has been working on the Rosemont EIS since 2008. When the Star contacted SWCA on Friday to ask if it's continuing to work on the EIS because its work is privately financed, the SWCA employee who answered the phone said she was not at liberty to say anything in response to our question, and referred the Star to the Forest Service.
But all Upchurch had to say about SWCA on Friday is that, “They don’t communicate with me (right now), so I don’t know what they’re doing” during the government shutdown.