Trump Administration Targets Uranium Mining Ban Near Grand Canyon
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WASHINGTON— The Trump administration wants to roll back a 20-year ban to allow uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, according to a Forest Service report formally released today.
Under today’s recommendations the Interior Department would revise an Obama-era mining ban that sought to protect tribal resources and drinking water, as well as safeguard critical wildlife corridors and habitat threatened by uranium contamination.
“This appalling recommendation threatens to destroy one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful regions to give free handouts to the mining industry,” said Allison Melton, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration’s willingness to sacrifice our natural treasures to polluters knows no bounds. But this reckless, shortsighted proposal won’t be allowed to stand.”
The mining moratorium, enacted in 2012 by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, bans new mining claims, exploration and mining — except for pre-existing mining rights — to protect Grand Canyon’s watersheds from uranium mining pollution. Past uranium mining in the region has polluted soils, washes, aquifers and drinking water.
“The Forest Service should be advocating for a permanent mining ban, not for advancing private mining interests that threaten one of the natural wonders of the world,” said Amber Reimondo with the Grand Canyon Trust. “The Grand Canyon and the people and communities that depend on it cannot be left to bear the risks of unfettered uranium mining, which is what will happen if the moratorium is removed.”
“This is a dangerous industry that is motivated by profit and greed with a long history of significantly damaging lands and waters. They are now seeking new mines when this industry has yet to clean up the hundreds of existing mines all over the landscape that continue to damage our home. We should learn from the past, not ignore it,” said Havasupai Tribal Chairman Don E. Watahomigie.
Hundreds of abandoned uranium mines still await cleanup, including more than 500 on the Navajo Nation.
“The Kaibab National Forest south of Grand Canyon National Park comprises crucial wildlife habitat for mule deer, cougars, elk and pronghorn,” said Kim Crumbo of Wildlands Network. “Considered sacred by Native Americans, the forest’s ponderosa pine, woodlands and wild creatures are vulnerable to the industrial impacts of mining and increased truck traffic should the mineral withdrawal be revoked.”
In a March 2017 executive order, President Trump required all agencies to review regulations, orders, guidance documents and policies to prioritize fossil fuel extraction and nuclear energy above all other uses on public lands. The uranium mining rollback is among the recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service.
“One million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon were protected from destructive uranium mining due to significant public support and recognition of what is at risk — Grand Canyon’s watershed, its wildlife, and so much more,” said Sandy Bahr, director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Now, the Trump administration wants to stomp all over the public and the public’s lands by rescinding these important protections. Doing so will put at risk Grand Canyon’s waters and wildlife, as well as the economy of northern Arizona, for the short-term profits of foreign mining companies. We must keep these protections in place.”
The USDA report concedes that uranium mining and other minerals do not generate revenue for the United States. In fact, steps to reduce or remove the mining ban would cost taxpayer money. The Trump administration would have to do environmental analysis and produce evidence to support reversing the current finding that uranium mining is harmful to communities, wildlife and water.
“After an extensive review process and substantial public participation, former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made a strong, affirmative decision to protect one of the world’s most enduring landscapes and the sustained health of indigenous communities that live within the watershed of the Grand Canyon,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Any move to allow more uranium mines before we know more fully how their operation would impact underground water essential to Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River puts all of us at risk.”
Nonpartisan polls show 80 percent of Arizona voters and 80 percent of Americans support permanent protection from new uranium mining for lands in the Grand Canyon region.
Click here for a fact sheet on why the Grand Canyon mining ban protects water, tribal resources and the greater Grand Canyon ecosystem.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Grand Canyon Trust uses science, advocacy and the law to protect the Grand Canyon and preserve the wild heart of the American West.
The Havasupai Tribe, “Havaasu Baaja” or “People of the Blue Green Water” are a federally recognized Indian tribe whose aboriginal homelands are comprised of the Grand Canyon and the plateau lands south and east of it. The only source of water for Tribe in Supai Village is springs that are fed by aquifers located primarily within the area of the mining moratorium.
Wildlands Network envisions a world where nature is unbroken, and where humans co- exist in harmony with the land and its wild inhabitants. Our mission is to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so life in all its diversity can thrive.
Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is a national nonprofit environmental organization with approximately 2.7 million members and supporters, including more than 60,000 in Arizona. Sierra Club’s mission is “to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; and to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.
Since 1919 the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.