January 14, 2021 / Modified jan 14, 2021 7:03 p.m.

Apache Stronghold files temporary restraining order and lien to stop transfer of Oak Flat

The nonprofit argued in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that Western Apache own the religious site.

Wendsler Nosie Sr Apache Stronghold Screenshot of Wendsler Nosie Sr., founder of Apache Stronghold, in a call-to-action video published the week the Jan. 15 U.S. Forest Service environmental impact statement was due to be published.

A nonprofit advocating for the protection of Oak Flat, a religiously significant site for the San Carlos Apache Tribe, filed a lien on the area Wednesday. It also filed a temporary restraining order Thursday to stop the land's transfer to a mining company.

The first step Apache Stronghold took this week to stop the land transfer was to sue the Trump administration Tuesday for violating Apache religious freedom. It will be arguing that the Western Apaches legally own the area, according to a treaty from 1852 with U.S.

“We are serious. This is our lives,” said Wendsler Nosie Sr., a former chairman with the San Carlos Apache Tribe and Apache Stronghold founder. "Besides, the United States government never legally took Chi'chil Bildagoteel away from us. It is still Apache land.”

Apache Stronghold hopes the lien will block the U.S. Forest Service from transferring the property's title to Resolution Copper, the company wanting to build a copper mine. The restraining order seeks to put a hold on the final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Forest Service until the lawsuit is settled, according to a press release.

Nosie said he's on "pins and needles," and he's been told the restraining order will be heard Friday or Monday.

"[If] we get that restraining order, then a lot of our fight moves to Washington and we're going to need help throughout the country," Nosie said.

The EIS is expected to be published Friday. When filed, it triggers a 60-day window for the federal government to transfer Oak Flat to Resolution Cooper to make it one of the largest copper mines in the country.

Nosie has compared Oak Flat's importance to his tribe to Mount Sinai for Christians. He said in press conference Thursday that destroying this sacred site will set new precedent.

"If this goes through, then all these sacred places that mean so much to all of us will be gone," Nosie said.

Nosie said he's heard the forest service is ready to transfer the land immediately.

The proposed mine would eventually create a crater around two miles wide and a thousand miles deep.

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