/ Modified feb 29, 2016 9:51 a.m.

Jaguar Video Rekindles Debate over Santa Ritas Land Use

Endangered animal habitat and mining both a part of the range south of Tucson.

The recently-released video of a solitary male jaguar in the Santa Rita Mountain range south of Tucson has reignited the long-running debate about habitat preservation and mining.

The video shows the endangered cat, known as El Jefe, walking through the view of three remotely-operated cameras. The organizations that released the video, Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity, are opposed to the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine in the Santa Ritas.

"My mission is to stop that mine," said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. "We wanted to take the footage that we got and use it to promote jaguar conservation."

He said the consistent records of the jaguar using Southern Arizona show the land should be protected.

"Jaguars in a lot of ways stand in for many other species that are going to be affected by this mine," he said.

Hudbay Minerals, the company that would operate the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine, declined an interview, and provided Metro Week with a statement about the video and the proximity of the jaguar habitat:

"The Santa Rita Mountain Range covers approximately 138,000 acres. The Rosemont Project is approximately 5,000 acres, including land buffer and production facilities; about one-eighth of the property will be taken up by the actual mine," the company statement said. "In the US Forest Service’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Rosemont Project extensive measures are included to protect the jaguar’s habitat."

The details of the company's mitigation plan and federal environmental impact research are available online.

The company statement also said Hudbay is continuing to provide regulatory agencies with information for the remaining permits necessary before the mine can operate.

"We remain optimistic the final steps of the permitting process will be accomplished in a timely manner and will help build a mine that creates jobs, complies with all environmental permits and requirements, and strengthens the local economy," the Hudbay statement said.

Jaguars have a long history in Southern Arizona, said Mark Hart, a spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. There have been five jaguars seen in Southern Arizona since it was designated as endangered in 1997.

"As thrilling as it is, we shouldn't read too much in to it," Hart said of the video.

The department feels five jaguars in 20 years is not enough to show the habitat in Southern Arizona is "critical" to its survival, Hart said. One factor the department cites is the lack of reproductive opportunities in Arizona for the endangered cat.

"The last female jaguar seen in southern Arizona was in 1963," he said. The department monitors jaguar activity and is a key state department devoted to conservation planning for the species. along with New Mexico state government.

On the show:

  • Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, explains the significance of video of an endangered jaguar in Southern Arizona.
  • Mark Hart, a spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department explains the federal critical jaguar habitat designation and why the department opposed such designation.

On the journalists roundtable:

  • AZPM's Christopher Conover discusses his reporting with UA jaguar researchers two years ago. They checked remote cameras and Conover describes some of the challenges associated with the process. He also discusses proposed state legislation to regulate the medical marijuana industry.
  • Curt Prendergast, an Arizona Daily Star reporter, discusses his work to look into civil lawsuits among medical marijuana dispensary owners or operators.
  • Paul Ingram, of TucsonSentinel.com, discusses the Border Patrol's apprehension of marijuana, and a man who was convicted of smuggling fossils illegally out of China and offering them for sale at the 2015 Tucson gem and mineral shows.
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