Washington, D.C. — Congress took an important step today toward permanently protecting two national treasures in the American West. The House Natural Resources Committee approved H.R. 1373, the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, which will withdraw a million acres from future mining of uranium and minerals around the Grand Canyon. It also passed H.R. 2181, the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, which protects Chaco Canyon from oil and gas development.
“These bills will protect wildlife in two of the country’s most cherished landscapes. They will protect communities nearby. They will protect water for future generations,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “Congress should follow the committee’s lead and pass these important bills.”
“A permanent mineral withdrawal around the Grand Canyon is simply the right thing to do,” said Brad Powell, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation. “The Grand Canyon is one of the great natural wonders of the world. The lands around it must be protected from the known threats of uranium mining so that future generations will be able to continue to hike, raft, hunt and fish in the area.”
“Increased oil and gas development around Chaco Canyon would not only threaten the landscape and wildlife in the area, but the health and safety of all of the people who live in the region,” said Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Already, more than 90% of our public lands in northwest New Mexico are under lease to oil and gas interests. New development will only exacerbate air and water pollution, fragment wildlife habitat and increase risks to public health.”
Uranium mining during the Cold War left a toxic legacy in the West of health issues for Native American tribes and a clean-up bill that cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. The Obama administration issued a 20 year ban on mining near the Grand Canyon in order to study the effects on the environment and public health.
Chaco Canyon includes dozens of ancient villages, roads and shrines that were built by a culture that flourished from 850-1250 A.D. Many of these sites have been designated as World Heritage sites. The Trump administration has attempted to lease lands near Chaco Canyon three times over the last two years.
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