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Legislation Will Finally End Uncertainty Around Grand Canyon Mineral Withdrawal

PHOENIX, AZ — The Arizona Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation and allies heralded legislation announced today by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva to permanently protect Grand Canyon National Park and nearby areas from future mining. The bill would codify the Department of the Interior’s mineral withdrawal and protect Arizona’s wildlife, water and communities from the effects of future uranium mining activities.

The White House and Commerce Department have recently opened the door to renewed uranium mining in Arizona and throughout the West by considering uranium import quotas.

“A permanent mineral withdrawal around the Grand Canyon is simply the right thing to do,” said Brad Powell, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation. “It still allows for multi-use of these public lands while ensuring that the water, the wildlife and the landscape are protected from the known threats of uranium mining.”  

“President Roosevelt famously said the Grand Canyon is ‘a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.’ It is simply too special — for wildlife and our heritage — to risk reckless uranium mining that is poisoning the communities, waterways, and wildlife around it,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We strongly support Chairman Grijalva’s legislation that would reduce the public health threats plaguing tribes and other communities around the Grand Canyon and we urge Congress to pass it swiftly.”

“We support this bill and are in solidarity with the indigenous communities who have been fighting for decades to protect ancestral lands and waters from toxic contamination in this area,” said Camilla Simon, executive director of Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO). “We are proud of House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Grijalva’s leadership and thank him for introducing this bill to permanently ban uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.”

“From an economic standpoint for our region, this is a no-brainer,” said Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott. “Outdoor recreation — hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping drive the economy of Northern Arizona, not uranium mining.”

Uranium mining around the Grand Canyon has been a controversial chapter in the region’s history, with uranium that once supported the Cold War leaving a toxic legacy of health issues for Native American tribes, clean-up costs in the billions of dollars for U.S. taxpayers, and multiple lawsuits on both sides. Uranium mines in Arizona and other states throughout the West have left Native American tribes to deal with a myriad of negative health effects, according to a recent study from the National Institutes of Health.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined in October 2018 to take up a challenge to the 2012 decision by the Interior Department to put new uranium mining off-limits in 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon. Nonetheless mining companies and the Congressional Western Caucus continue to push the Trump administration to impose uranium quotas and lift the ban.

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