Conservation groups are applauding the Obama administration’s final decision today protecting 1 million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining. Today’s Interior Department “record of decision” establishes a 20-year ban on new uranium mining and mining of current claims without valid permits across 1 million acres (more than 1,500 square miles). The ban will protect Grand Canyon’s springs and creeks, as well as imperiled species like the humpback chub, from uranium-mining pollution.
“This landmark decision closes the door on rampant industrialization of Grand Canyon’s watersheds,” said Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust. “Uranium mining imposes well documented and unacceptable risks to the people and natural resources of our region.”
On July 21, 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a two-year order banning new mining claims across 1 million acres of public lands around the world-famous national park—a ban made final and long-term today.
“Grand Canyon National Park is an international icon, a biodiversity hotspot and the economic engine for much of the Southwest’s tourist industry,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s decision deserves celebration—protecting Grand Canyon from more toxic uranium-mining pollution is the right thing to do.”
Uranium pollution already plagues the Grand Canyon and surrounding area. Proposals for new mining have prompted protests, litigation and proposed legislation. Because dozens of new mines threatened to industrialize iconic and regionally sacred wildlands, destroy wildlife habitat and permanently pollute or deplete aquifers, scientists, tribal and local governments and businesses have all voiced support for today’s protections.
“This is a great day for Grand Canyon National Park and all those who care about the park and the surround public lands, including the hundreds of thousands of individuals, hundreds of businesses and organizations, local governments and Native American tribes who have supported this proposal. We are pleased the Obama administration has taken this important action to protect the Grand Canyon’s watershed and would like to also thank Representative Grijalva for his leadership on working to protect these lands,” said Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter director.
“Protecting these lands from radioactive contamination is a major step in achieving a Grand Canyon conservation vision through efforts dating back over 100 years, including presidents Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt,” said Kim Crumbo of the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. “The Obama administration deserves applause for this major achievement to guard our greatest national park.”
“The Grand Canyon is one of the wonders of the world. Standing by while it’s enveloped by a tidal wave of uranium exploration and mining would be the wrong move,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney with the environmental law firm Earthjustice. “We applaud Secretary Salazar’s action, and stand ready to defend the mining withdrawal from any ill-considered attack by the uranium industry.”