Rep. Grijalva Announces Legislation on Permanent Moratorium
U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, recently announced legislation that would place a permanent moratorium on new mining claims in the Grand Canyon region. Chair Grijalva’s bill, the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, will make the 20-year moratorium established in 2012 by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar permanent. All told, the legislation would protect approximately one million acres of public lands north and south of the Grand Canyon.
“Today we embark on an effort to continue our reverence and generational protection for the Grand Canyon, which the Grand Canyon needs and deserves,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The Grand Canyon needs something permanent and sustainable for its future.”
The Grand Canyon is a place of deep cultural importance to several regional American Indian tribes, a biodiversity hotspot and an international tourism destination. The canyon draws more than 6 million visitors annually and generates more than $900 million for the local economy.
Uranium mining on public lands surrounding the park threatens to disrupt, deplete, and pollute aquifers that feed springs and streams in the Grand Canyon. Mining also poisons wildlife, fragments wildlife corridors, and industrializes iconic landscapes that are sacred to regional cultures.
“Mining in the Grand Canyon region is a threat to the people, land, water, and wildlife that make this place so extraordinary,” stated Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “We are thrilled that Rep. Grijalva is putting forth this legislation to permanently limit mining in the Canyon area and we are grateful for his leadership. We urge every Member of Congress and Senator to support this much-needed measure to protect public lands and one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders.”
Despite widespread public support to protect the Grand Canyon, politicians have called for lifting a 20-year ban on new uranium mining in the region. The ban was enacted by the Interior department in 2012 to stop new uranium mines across one million acres adjacent to the park.
“Grand Canyon is a living ecological and cultural landscape of immense richness and beauty. We must ensure that its connected habitats, waterways and aquifers are forever protected intact. The persistence here of past uranium mining impacts and the push today to massively expand uranium production and transportation tells us we should act at once,” stated Kelly Burke, executive director of Grand Canyon Wildlands Council.
“The Grand Canyon is an international icon and a biodiversity hotspot,” said Taylor McKinnon, senior campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The park’s centennial is a timely reminder of the need to permanently protect its aquifers, springs and adjacent lands from dangerous uranium mining.”
“The health of the Grand Canyon and the health of neighboring communities are jeopardized by nearby uranium mining,” said Mike Quigley, Arizona state director for the Wilderness Society. “They deserve to be protected.”
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