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Critics also faulted the administration for bypassing the 1984 Arizona Wilderness Act, a compromise document that designated 1.1 million acres for wilderness while allowing mineral development on 540,000 acres of federal land in the region.

“If the loss of America mining jobs in this fanciful trade-off doesn’t concern this administration, they should consider how future wilderness proposals will be viewed by Congress once it becomes clear that negotiated agreements like those embodied by the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 are neither genuine nor enduring,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

The Interior Department is expected to make its decision on the proposed moratorium after a 30-day review period on the final environmental impact statement, which was issued Oct. 26.