Thursday, October 15, 2009

Public Supports Protecting Grand Canyon and One Million Acres of Public Lands From Mining

For Immediate Release, October 15, 2009

Contacts: Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488

Public Supports Protecting Grand Canyon and One Million Acres of Public Lands From Mining
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— Today conservationists join tribal leaders, city and county officials, and people from throughout Arizona in supporting the protection of one million acres of public lands near Grand Canyon. Supporters of the protections will attend a public hearing this evening in Flagstaff to tell the Interior Department to move forward with a mineral withdrawal to protect the lands from future mining activities. The hearing will be held at the High Country Conference Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff starting at 6:00 p.m.

“This is an exciting opportunity to provide protections for the land and the waters around Grand Canyon as well as for the Colorado River and the drinking water for millions of people in the Southwest,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “We are asking that the Department of the Interior move forward with a proposed action to safeguard this area from uranium mining for the next 20 years.”

In August, Interior announced its preparation of an environmental impact statement evaluating a proposed 20-year “mineral withdrawal” that would prohibit new mining claims and the exploration or mining of existing claims without valid existing rights across nearly one million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. The purpose of the mineral withdrawal would be to protect Grand Canyon’s watersheds from the adverse effects of new uranium exploration and mining. If approved, the withdrawal would extend and strengthen protections set forth in the two-year land segregation announced by the Department on July 20, 2009.

“New uranium mining would pose unacceptable risks to Grand Canyon’s watersheds and wildlife,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Department of the Interior’s proposed mineral withdrawal would help to abate those risks and secure the Grand Canyon’s future.”

Spikes in uranium prices have caused thousands of new uranium claims, dozens of proposed exploration drilling projects, and proposals to reopen old uranium mines adjacent to Grand Canyon. Renewed uranium development threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and industrialize now-wild and iconic landscapes bordering the park; it also threatens to contaminate aquifers that discharge into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River.

“Uranium mining has already done irreparable harm to our region’s people, water, and land,” said Grand Canyon Trust spokesman Roger Clark. “We should not repeat the mistakes of the past on our public watersheds surrounding the Grand Canyon.”

Proposed uranium development on the lands involved in the withdrawal has drawn criticism from scientists, city officials, county officials, former Governor Janet Napolitano, the Navajo, Kaibab-Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai tribes, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Statewide polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies shows overwhelming public support for withdrawing from mineral entry the lands near Grand Canyon; Arizonans support protecting the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining by a two-to-one margin.

The deadline for public comment on the first phase of the mineral withdrawal analysis is October 26, 2009. Comments can be submitted at the meeting, emailed to or mailed to Grand Canyon Mining Withdrawal Project, ATTN: Scott Florence, District Manager, Arizona Strip District Office, 345 E. Riverside Drive, Saint George, UT 84790-6714.

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