Uranium Mine Moratorium Extended at Grand Canyon

Salazar extends ban on filing new mining claims on a million acres of public land near the canyon-
Addition: Sierra Club happy (see bottom)

Salazar put the ban in place in 2009 after worry he would not. Now he has extended it six months. The Bush Administration had encouraged filing claims. which are property rights. Salazar got praises when he reversed the policy in favor of protecting a great national park and nearby resources. In December Salazar is expected to make a decision whether to make the ban permanent. Conservationists have been getting worried about the tilt of the Obama Administration. This reassures them somewhat. Republicans, as expected, were outraged and made their standard argument how this was costing jobs, causing dependence on foreign sources of energy, etc. They said they might try to reverse the ban by congressional action.
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, ranking minority member on the relevant House Committee, was quoted in the New York Times, “Republicans might try to undo the decision to protect the land but that they would be, in his words, ‘crawling uphill.’ ‘It’s typical of their heavy-handed approach, and they’re going to lose on this one,’ Mr. Grijalva said. ‘ The canyon is a huge economic engine for tourism, a huge conservation issue and a huge issue of water supply for California and Las Vegas and the cities of Arizona.’ ”

Obama Administration extends ban on new mining claims in buffer zone around the Grand Canyon. The New York Times. By John M. Broder.

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Update (reaction from the Sierra Club)

Sierra Club Applauds Action to Protect Public Lands, Waters Surrounding Grand Canyon

Phoenix, AZ — Today, the Sierra Club applauded an announcement by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recommending protection for more than a million acres of public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park from mineral exploration and mining for 20 years.  The area will remain temporarily protected from new mining claims by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management until the recommendation goes into effect.

“Secretary Salazar’s action will help protect the Grand Canyon’s waters, sacred Native American sites, critical wildlife habitat and much-needed jobs in the region’s tourism-based economy,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director. “The Sierra Club appreciates and strongly supports Sec. Salazar’s significant action to protect these precious public lands, prevent expensive, long-term health risks for local communities and respect permanent uranium mining bans put in place by the Hualapai, Havasupai and Navajo nations on their lands surrounding the park. ”

There are more than 3,000 uranium mining claims in the plateaus surrounding the Grand Canyon. Development of these claims would industrialize regionally sacred wildlands, destroy wildlife habitat and permanently pollute or deplete aquifers feeding the Grand Canyon’s biologically rich springs.

Today’s announcement follows efforts by Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ), scientists, tribal and local government leaders, businesses and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens to secure protections for the region and its waters. The Colorado River watershed provides water to millions of acres of farmland and people throughout the Southwest living in southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson.

“This is a great day for the Grand Canyon, its wildlife and everyone in the Southwest who relies on the Colorado River for drinking water,” said Sandy Bahr, the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter Director.

The Greater Grand Canyon region is a wild and remote landscape that includes two national monuments (Vermilion Cliffs and Grand Canyon-Parashant), two national forests (Coconino and Kaibab), numerous wilderness areas, and the crown jewel of our national park system: Grand Canyon National Park.  These lands provide important connections for wildlife movement and homes to key animals like the desert tortoise, the endangered California condor, the northern goshawk, and the Kaibab squirrel– an animal found nowhere else.

Today, the plateaus surrounding the Grand Canyon support almost 100 kinds of rare plants and animals, and the largest tracts of old growth ponderosa pine forest in Arizona.



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Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan