On March 4, 1907 the Tonto National Forest in Arizona was created when millions of acres of scenic land were transferred from a General Land Office reserve to the United States Forest Service. Soon more forest land was added from the Black Mesa and Pinal Mountain National Forests. Today, at 2,873,200 acres, the Tonto National Forest is the largest of six in Arizona. It is the fifth largest in the U.S. The area has been home to many cultures for thousands of years, including those archaeologists call the Salado people who built 40-room cliff dwellings in caves around the Tonto basin sometime around AD 1300. Today the dwellings are visited by thousands of people each year. Later the Apache Tribe of native Americans called the Tonto basin home. In the late 19th and early 20th Century they were moved onto reservations that border the Tonto National Forest. In December 2014 the United States Congress agreed to swap 2,400 acres of land in the Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the Australian-English mining company Rio Tinto, which co-owns with Iran a uranium mine in Africa and which is 10-percent-owned by China. The agreement was hidden in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a federal law specifying the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense. Rio Tinto wants the land to mine copper. The land in question is ancient Apache burial and ceremonial ground. The proposal, in Section 3003 of the NDAA, titled "Southeast Arizona Land Exchange", is strongly opposed by many Native Americans, including the 57 member tribes of The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association. On Thursday December 26, 2014 President Obama signed the NDAA, and the land swap provision, into law. Enjoy a slideshow of photos from the Tonto National Forest below.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at email@example.com