Helping an Endangered Prickly Plant to Thrive
At Resolution Copper, we take special care to proactively minimize environmental impacts of the project and we do that in consultation and partnership with local communities, Native American tribes, civil society organizations and regulatory agencies. Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. arizonicus – commonly known as the Arizona hedgehog cactus – is a plant species native to central Arizona where it occurs from 3,300 feet to 5,700 feet in elevation within the transition zone of the Mogollon Rim where the upland Sonoran Desert, montane woodlands, and interior chaparral communities converge. Its preferred habitat is exposed and stable bedrock or boulders exhibiting sufficient fracturing or rock fields, which are often found in the Copper Triangle. The Arizona hedgehog cactus is a dark-green multi-stemmed plant that blooms brilliant red claret-cup flowers in April.
In 1979, the Arizona hedgehog was federally listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). According to a U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report, decreases in the population of the Arizona hedgehog cacti occurred due to road construction and highway development resulting in habitat degradation and loss of individual plants.
To expand the scientific data knowledge gap and increase the range of numbers of this species, Resolution Copper has been working with biologists from WestLand Resources, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) on a conservation strategy over the last 13 years. The strategy has involved yearly to bi-yearly monitoring of existing populations, new occurrence surveys covering thousands of acres of land, genetic and other species-specific testing as well as propagation of thousands of new Arizona Hedgehog plants from seed and plantings on both National Forest System Lands and Resolution Copper private property. This data was provided to federal regulatory agencies and used to calculate survival and population growth rates over time.
All combined, the Resolution Copper Arizona Hedgehog cactus program is the most comprehensive data set for the species. Compared to the initial 1979 listing, the range and numbers of the Arizona Hedgehog are much greater than originally thought. Most of the cacti populations that have been consistently monitored are labeled as stable or increasing. In a first of its kind conservation program, Resolution Copper will record a conservation easement over its JI Ranch property, once construction on the project starts to preserve and conserve this species well into the future. Resolution Copper will also greatly enhance and expand its monitoring and scientific research on the species though the life of the operation as part of the long-term conservation program in the Copper Triangle.
The Arizona hedgehog cactus conservation program is just one example of how a mining company and endangered species preservation can coexist. Resolution Copper is committed to understanding and reducing the impacts that our operations may have on the environment. This process has already started, long before the mine is in production, and it will continue well beyond the mine’s closure.