Chair Grijalva Formally Introduces Bill to Protect Grand Canyon Area From New Mining Claims – Effort Enjoys Extraordinary Grassroots, Tribal Support
Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today formally introduced the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, which protects an area of approximately 1 million acres north and south of Grand Canyon National Park from new mineral extraction activities. Today’s introduction falls on the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park and follows last Saturday’s press conference at the Grand Canyon, which featured speakers from grassroots and Native American organizations supporting the bill.
A video highlighting that event and offering a visual representation of the need to protect the greater Grand Canyon region is available at http://bit.ly/2GJ5U6F.
A coalition comprising the National Congress of American Indians, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Grand Canyon Trust, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, Haul No!, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and Wildlands Network sent Grijalva a joint letter of support on Feb. 25 emphasizing their shared concern about the impact uranium mining could have on the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River and the surrounding region. The letter reads in part, “Today, our nation has the opportunity to take the long view and permanently protect the Grand Canyon and those who depend upon it rather than allow it to be jeopardized for the sake of mines that ultimately would benefit no more than the short term profits of a few.”
Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), who spoke at the Saturday event, is an original cosponsor of Grijalva’s bill.
“This region is still coping with the toxic legacy of uranium mining, and it has had a lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of communities and families over the decades,” O’Halleran said today. “For years I have fought against efforts to resume uranium mining near the Grand Canyon watershed, and I am proud to continue that work today by co-sponsoring the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act. For one hundred years, and for decades before, millions of people have visited the Grand Canyon for its spiritual significance and natural beauty. We have an obligation to protect this natural wonder for centuries to come.”
Other original cosponsors of the bill, all Democrats, include:
Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA-32)
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12)
Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02)
Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21)
Rep. Debra Haaland (NM-01)
Rep. Mike Levin (CA-49)
Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05)
Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09)
Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI-AL)
Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24)
Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-01)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Rep. A. Donald McEachin (VA-04)
Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)
An August 2018 poll found that urban, suburban and rural Arizonans of all political persuasions strongly support continuing the existing ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. That poll and its methodology are available at http://bit.ly/2NuS9ZI.
In 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a 20-year moratorium on new mining claims over approximately 1 million acres in two units north and south of the Grand Canyon. Grijalva’s new bill makes that withdrawal permanent. As Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, Grijalva has primary jurisdiction over the bill.
Formally, the bill removes the moratorium area from the jurisdiction of the Mining Law of 1872 and the Mineral Leasing Act, meaning that no new claims could be made for locatable minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, uranium or other precious metals), and no new leases could be issued for leasable minerals (such as oil, gas, coal and phosphate).
While existing claims inside the moratorium area will remain, owners would have to perform what is known as a validity determination in order to keep them, which requires a demonstration that a mining claim contains extractable mineral deposits in a concentration that can be mined profitably. Owners would also have to demonstrate that they intend to conduct mining operations on those claims.
Statements of Support
“The Grand Canyon Trust is humbled and honored to join Havasupai, Navajo, Hopi, and Hualapai leaders and others in supporting a permanent halt to this assault on the land and its people. In this, Grand Canyon National Park’s centennial year, we join together with all of you to ensure that uranium mining will not threaten these lands into the next century. As a matter of principle and common concern, we proudly join with citizens — of many political persuasions and personal histories — to stand with one united voice in supporting the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act. Let’s work together to keep the canyon grand.”
Grand Canyon Trust
“Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region is a threat to the people, land, water, and wildlife that make this place so extraordinary and has harmed the health and welfare of tribal communities. We appreciate Rep. Grijalva putting forth this legislation to permanently limit mining in the Canyon area and we are grateful for his leadership on this important issue. We strongly urge every Member of Congress and Senator to support this much-needed measure to protect public lands and one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, Grand Canyon.”
Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter
“Banning new uranium mines from adjacent public lands will stop any risk to the limited underground water that feeds Grand Canyon National Park’s important seeps, springs, and side creeks – and the entire water supply of the Havasupai people. The administration’s moratorium was widely supported. We now urge Congress to make permanent this prudent plan to protect both a national treasure and vital tribal water source.”
Arizona Senior Program Manager
National Parks Conservation Association
“We are just following in our ancestors' footsteps to protect this canyon. Please stand with us. Today is a very important day, a historical day, as we continue to work together to stop uranium mining in the canyon forever. Forever.”
Tribal Council Member
“With Congressman Grijalva’s help, now is the time to create a new legacy, one that is rooted on cultural respect, preservation, awareness, and education. Let’s support the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act and make the next 100 years a better place.”
“The Hopi Tribe has repeatedly stated we oppose the continued use of the archaic 1872 Mining Law to justify uranium mining. The 1872 Mining Law is a 19th Century tool of archaic law used to ‘discover,’ ‘claim,’ and ‘take’ Native Americans’ lands, and continues today as a policy of disregard and disrespect toward the beliefs and sacred ties that Hopi and Native American people have with the Earth. The legacy of uranium mining has devastated the people and the land, and continues to destroy the land and lives of Hopisinom, Native Americans, and Americans alike. Koyaanisqatsi, told in Hopi history and prophesy, is life out of balance, or a state of life that calls for another way of living. This state of life characterizes the risks we face together in modern times. If Americans are to live together in America in the 21st Century, we must call together for another way of living. The laws of the past that are now being used against all American people must be consigned to the past, and replaced with laws that support life, and not destruction and death.”
“Chairman Grijalva’s legislation would secure treasured wild lands and the health of communities in Arizona for generations to come, and Earthjustice is proud to support it. As litigators working with Native American Tribes and communities who have personally experienced the grave threat uranium mining poses to human health, culture, and livelihoods, we understand how essential these protections are. Uranium mining left a toxic legacy in the Southwest – all for quick corporate profits that have come and gone. Congress should carefully consider and pass this legislation without delay.”
Managing Attorney, Rocky Mountain Office
“A vast wilderness, national treasure and world icon, this living landscape and intricately connected hydrological system will sustain us if we work together to keep it whole for all time. In this Centennial year of Grand Canyon National Park’s establishment, and with deep appreciation of Representative Grijalva’s efforts, we support the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act. Let’s make the current uranium mining withdrawal permanent.”
Grand Canyon Wildlands Council
“Grand Canyon National Park’s centennial is a timely occasion for legislation permanently protecting the park’s aquifers, springs and adjacent lands and watersheds from dangerous uranium mining. The Grand Canyon is an international icon, the sacred homeland to regional American Indian tribes, and a cradle of biological diversity and endemism. In a region afflicted by seven decades of dangerous uranium pollution, this legislation is historic. We commend Congressman Grijalva and tribal leaders not just for their work to bring forward this legislation, but for years of leadership protecting the Grand Canyon region from more dangerous uranium mining.”
Center for Biological Diversity
“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. 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.”
President and CEO
National Wildlife Federation
Media Contact: Adam Sarvana
(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626 mobile
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