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Uranium Industry Attack on Grand Canyon

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View Ted Zukoski's blog posts
17 March 2012, 8:23 AM
Yet another toxic mining threat
A uranium mine near the Grand Canyon's North Rim. Photo: Don Bills, USGS.

At the beginning of the last century, Ralph H. Cameron was a booster of the Grand Canyon. He wanted to promote – and cash in on - the Canyon as a tourist destination. He helped expand Bright Angel Trail, now one of the most popular trails into the Canyon from the South Rim.  But at a price; he charged a toll to visitors.

He also tried to turn chunks of national forest land near the rim into his own property by staking claims under the oft-criticized 1872 mining law.

It didn’t work. Forest Service mineral examiners denied Cameron’s mining claims as bogus.

The ambitious Cameron – later a U.S. senator – did not go quietly. The Feds had to sue Cameron to kick him off the public’s land. Cameron fought back, claiming that President Roosevelt had no authority to designate the Grand Canyon a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

If the courts had agreed, future attempts to protect some of America’s best know natural landscapes – the Grand Tetons, Death Valley – would have been thwarted.

But the Supreme Court did not agree. In his opinion rebuffing Mr. Cameron’s argument, Supreme Court Justice Willis Van Devanter waxed eloquent on the Grand Canyon as a place of wonder:

"It is the greatest eroded canyon in the United States, if not in the world, is over a mile in depth, has attracted wide attention among explorers and scientists, affords an unexampled field for geologic study, is regarded as one of the great natural wonders, and annually draws to its borders thousands of visitors.”

The court found the Antiquities Act gave President Roosevelt the authority to create the national monument, and secured the Grand Canyon’s future protection.

Flash forward a hundred years.

The new foes of protecting the Grand Canyon region look a lot like Mr. Cameron.  They are uranium miners who’ve staked thousands of claims ringing the national park.

Uranium mining has left a toxic legacy in the area, polluting water that run through the Park, which has prompted the Park Service to warn hikers not to drink the water of certain streams, iincluding Horn Creek. (New mines are supposed to be better and cleaner. But the water pollution threatened by the “modern” flooded mines shows otherwise.)

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stood up for protecting the lands around the national park, putting a million acres off limits to new mining claims.

The uranium industry, like Mr. Cameron, doesn’t like protecting the Grand Canyon. And like Mr. Cameron, they are attacking not only the Grand Canyon protection measures, but also the Interior Secretary’s authority to protect lands. (Industry claims the Interior Department can’t protect more than 5,000 acres at a time from uranium mining claims.)

This time, Earthjustice and our clients – the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and National Parks Conservation Association – will be fighting to protect the Grand Canyon.  (We filed legal papers to formally intervene in the first of three industry suits last week.)

If history is going to repeat itself, with miners hoping to degrade wildlife habitat, waters and one of America’s natural wonders for profit, we’ll work to ensure the courts again recognize the Canyon’s majesty and again reject the miner’s attacks.


Follow Ted on Twitter @TedZukoski

Over 40% of the natural resources in this country (oil, gas, lumber etc) is being sold to the highest bidder OUTSIDE this country!
The claim that 'we' must drill oil and mine coal in this country is bogus! It is only to fill the pockets of the already too wealthy industrialists.

What's your answer Mary, Name some of those "industrialists"

We are poison our world,what is next?Forget about life in another planet,lets take care of our planet first.

Our 'need' for energy has fueled the development of unethical sources from coal mining to mega-hydro to tar-sands to uranium mining, There is no 'clean, green' source though some producers try to claim that theirs is!

Until the last fish has been caught. The last tree cut down. The last river polluted will you realize that money cannot be eaten ~ Wake up!!!!!!

Unbelievable greed. Unnecessary encroachment and disturbance of a natural wonder and terrible that the water supply is already tainted!!! These claims must be stopped and abolished!

Do they care? What are they thinking, trying to destroy one of the United State's most treasured possessions? Would it be worth it, polluting this natural wonder formed over - wait, how long did it take to form the Grand Canyon again? I have never been to the Grand Canyon before and I don't know what it looks like, but imagining the Canyon covered in a forest of pipes... That isn't a pretty thought at all.

Please, don't let them demolish Mother Nature!

The sad thing is that we could safely mine the uranium if the mining companies would follow EPA law, but they don't. If the mining companies would spend some more of their profits to ensure that the surrounding areas stay clean, it could be safely mined. But since that would mean losing some profit, that will never happen.

Greed at all levels of government is ruining our country.

Would like to suggest...Nuclear power is a nightmare. Mining to support it is out of the question. As I type this, radiation from Fukeshima has reached the mid-Pacific, and is spreading all directions in the Pacific. Think about that.

Hanford near PDX,OR has leaking storage tanks. . . Chernobyl.
Mining uranium has no useful purpose.

It seems to be customary for many progressives to be afraid of nuclear energy. I am a progressive who has taken the trouble to educate myself beyond the fear reflex.

If you WANT to save the planet you will stop opposing nuclear energy, and start insisting on clean mining of uranium, which is now perfectly feasible.

Trying to use the calamity at Fukushima to tar the life saving potential of nuclear energy harms us all. We need clean nuclear energy to power us down the road to sustainability. Don't think for a second that there is any promise in wind-produced power. Solar will work, but the infrastructure to run a nation will take many years to build.

The constant citing of Fukushima and Chernobyl is fear mongering. It is fossil fuels which are KILLING us! I repeat: If you WANT to save the planet you will stop opposing nuclear energy.

Well said, your keyword is educate yourself. If you don't go move in Al Gore's mansion

If nuclear power is all that great, why do they still DEMAND 100% taxpayer paid for loan guarantees. Any technology as mature as nuclear power must be by now that can't raise at least 10% of the capital it needs in the private sector as AT RISK EQUITY capital is NOT viable.

The American people have the power to stop the destruction of the Grand Canyon, but we have to be informed and believe that one person can make a difference. Indifference is not an option.

One person at a time to sign petitions, send letters to the editor. Spreading the message to the people is important. Consider that there is first apathy. The past tense of this is pathetic, The Grand Canyon's walls are brittle. Sen John McCain wants low flying airplane tours over the Canyon.Large earthmovong equipment used in mining can also severly damage the Canyon.

Thank goodness we have the power of the internet to make people more aware of these kinds of steamroller corporate tactics, which if we work together with the information, gives us a chance at stopping them or at least slowing down their wanton destruction of the planet in the name of more money in their own pockets. If you watch "The Last Mountain" documetary, you will see firsthand the senseless greed of the coal mining industry and what it is doing to single-handedly destroy a huge watershed in the eastern region of the United States, not to mention ruining the very air we breathe. Move on to Frontline's documentary about the recent nuclear disaster in Japan as a result of the earhquake and tsunami, and you get a real idea of how completely oblivious these corporations are (and chose to be) of their longterm and probably irreversible wipeout of all natural resources.
We could learn some mobilizing tactics from the citizens organized to fight the coal industry in West Virginia. Citizens who are not associated with this corporate greed must begin to initate offensive tactics now, we can't afford to wait until we're on the defensive any longer. Our own 'democratic' government is selected and run by corporate money today and no longer represents the voters. If we don't go to the root of that travesty NOW, we're sunk and in the end, we'll lose even the wondrous Grand Canyon.

Greed has lit up the skies somuch from excess electric lighting that one cannot see the true night sky from most places in the US! Now corporate interests want to rape the Grand Canyon! Beware of the fact that the nuclear industry is runnning out of uranium from Russia and will use every specious argument to mine more uranium in the US and Canada!!

again, really?? Didn't we already protect the grand canyon, why must bwe fight to protect it yet again, and for the same reason as before

My wife and I just returned from a weeks stay at Cameron's trading post. Mr. Cameron's legacy is still exacting a "toll". A school nearby, built in the last ten years, with excellent facilities has to have water shipped in everyday for the kids. The ground water has been contaminated by the uranium pools being abandoned while the dams break and leak the chemicals and waste from mining into the ground water. The "Bennett Freeze" from a 1963 court judgement has not helped. Barry Goldwater and Morris Udall helped create an inter-tribal conflict over mineral rights that ultimately ravaged the land leading up to the Southern Rim. The Native Americans are the ones who suffer the most. It's a travesty of monstrous proportions.

I agree with the sentiment that all environmental groups should unite into one to fight destruction of wildlife environments, national forests, and public parks and surrounding lands. Where is the National Resources Defense Council on this? I have over 20 different wildlife and environmental groups asking me to support their groups' work. Can't do it; too poor; thus, I support one state and one national group. We need consolodated groups with more clout to take on these corporate transgressions.

Am in accord with Sandy in CO:
The corporate interests have purchased US judiciary and legislators openly since the Supreme Court voted to give corporations 'personhood'2011. (Citizens United) Recently the same court upheld Monsanto against 300,000 organic farmers being
swindled out of farms. So not only are corporations 'persons' they are , so far,immune from court action.
I agree that the organizations need to consolidate. I m unemployed and I can't give to many. Petitions are increasingly ignored, although I sign them.

I have visited the Grand Canyon only once,unfortunately. I found the beauty there a never to be forgotten experience. I stood at the rim and watched the changing of the color with the sun
and the sheer beauty all around me.Do not let anyone destroy that beauty. The beauty there and in our many other natural treasures are the little bit of heaven we have in this crazy world. I am 91 and have been in all but 10 states of our Union at some time following my husband as a military wife since World War 2 and I am so proud to be an American! Please do not let them destroy this beauty.

The greedy, money grubbing scum in big business today, be in mining, logging, chemicals, oil and gas, GM seed, etc will do anything to profit. They have absolutely no regard for the future of our planet, the future of our species or any other species for that matter. There simple goal is to rape and pillage and increase their bank balances no matter the cost to the rest of us. If we are ever to safeguard our planet from these monsters we need to rip their corporate charters from their dirty money grubbing hands - as their corporate misdeeds harm us, do no good for the community and those two issues used to be enough to pull a charter - against the public good - and a company would be driven out. We need to pull together and stop the fascist connection of corporate greed and power hungry politicians. There are thousands of different groups working towards these ends - we need to pool our resources - and together we can defeat any of these foes,

I agree completely! Our land, our health are under a question of self-defense! We cannot be passive while the polluting dirty energy corporations go around raping and pillaging the land.

Why does it have to be an ongoing battle to protect what little remains of the beauty of our nation and the world? These bums - and that is exactly what they are - be they politicians or private business concerns - don’t give a tinkers dam about protecting the environment. It doesn’t even matter that nuclear energy in it’s present form is a dead end road. What does matter is that we need to save every little piece of what is left of the natural world. Doesn’t matter if it is a money-making concern or not - if the land just sits there and does nothing but simply exist - that should be a priority for all of us. It does our souls good just to know that these places exist - whether they are spectacular or not doesn't even make that much difference - but we need to know that such places are there and protected against human exploitation and even overuse by tourism. It seems now days that all the power to make critical decisions is vested in the wrong hands - but we need to stop these entities from destroying the beauty of what is left in our country - and do it by whatever measures are necessary to do so. It is one of the most important priorities of our times - because once gone - it will be gone forever - and unfortunately - most people don’t even realize what is at stake - - -

Imagine the public furor and outrage if the lawn of the White House were opened to mineral exploration, oil drilling or uranium mining.

This outrageous uranium mining activity around the Grand Canyon ought be exposed in every major newspaper in every large and/or major city of the USA.

I don't know why we worry and concern ourselves about Iran, North Korea or anybody else smacking our lights out. Seems to me that we're doing a damned fine job of "stoopid"ing ourselves right off the globe with no help from anyone. God, how is it possible that people supposedly so intellectually gifted and in positions to HELP our nation are bound and determined, hell-bent for leather to just completely FUBAR our own country, not to mention the world?

There always seems to be a battleground between those who would enrich themselves now and those who would enrich the lives of our children and their children. You see it every day with the Republican denial of global warming. They are not stupid - they just sound like it in their greed, their short-sightedness and their lack of caring about their children's lives. We must take the long view with respect to our environment and we must take the long view with respect to fighting short-term greed of all types.

It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly stupid the human race is. Let's just destroy our planet for wealth ! It shouldn't be question of what's more profitable, tourism or uranium. It should be a no brainer, mining will destroy the environment, DUH !! Unfortunately the fraction of people out there that really do care and are not greedy, fat cat, right wing butt holes, are simply not enough to save this race, Mother Earth will likely survive but us poor suckers and most of the other inhabitants will not. Hey here's a thought, instead of nuclear power how about wind and solar ?? Gee what a concept ...

Supreme Courts decide in the direction of which is the greater asset. Is it uranium or tourism/ecology?

In a battle of uranium vs tourism, the corporate citizen is uniquely empowered politiclly with Supreme Court judges aligned with them by the same financial backers and funding to implement threir agenda.

We have 3 reminders in the world of disasters in the use of nuclear power: Japan most recently, Chernobyl Russia and our own 3 Mile Island. History has shown we cannot pay attention long enough to safely use nuclear power. The only safe place for it's use is in the peaceful explortion of space.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons and the subsequent exploded contamination levels from thousands of tests still pock mark the Earth, everywhere. There is contamination from all of the radiation leaks within us, affecting our health and our ecosystem.

All of this said, it is still not enough of a threat to stop them from mining uranium.
Accidents will happen again and more people will die.

Less IS more. We will all live like monks one day, simply, in deep reverence for Mother Earth, for she is sensitive and alive. She is the living womb in all of us. She will clean up the mess we uncivilized beings make, herself. She will simply wipe out the people who make the destruction and pollution worse. She will birth only peaceful humans who realize her love. Heed this warning: karma is real. If you want to have a good relationship with your children and grand-children, preserve the Mother Earth's purity, and she will do the same for you.

Monks make great beer.

And our b**** of a governor, Jan Brewer, has her greedy claws out now to defend \ uranium mining. No doubt she has a stake in the mining companies who want to rape the Canyon.

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