by Jim Nintzel
Congresssman Raul Grijalva has scored a victory in blocking an effort to continue uranium mining on public land near the Grand Canyon. Here's the release from Grijalva's office:
Washington, D.C. — One year after House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and Subcommittee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) initiated efforts to force the Bush-era Interior Department to withdraw lands surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today moved to protect nearly one million acres from new uranium mining.
“The spectacular Grand Canyon is far too precious to risk to contamination from
new uranium mining, which is why I joined Subcommittee Chairman Grijalva in urging Secretary Salazar to issue this temporary withdrawal. We are grateful that he has heeded our Committee’s emergency request, which will afford the Congress more time to pass legislation to permanently protect the families and resources of the Grand Canyon area from the threat of uranium contamination,” Chairman Rahall said.
“The Grand Canyon is too important to waste, and the Obama Administration recognizes that. Whether we talk about its significance to Arizona’s economy, the Grand Canyon watershed, or future generations of Americans, this is a treasure that we cannot risk contaminating. With the leadership of Secretary Salazar, we now may have temporary protections for this American treasure. Although an important first step, it doesn’t change the need for the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2009, which will permanently protect the Grand Canyon for future generations to enjoy,” Subcommittee Chairman Grijalva said.
The announcement comes just one day ahead of a previously planned Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands hearing on legislation authored by Grijalva and co-sponsored by Rahall — the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 644) — that would permanently withdraw nearly one million acres of federal land, in close proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, from future mining claims.
In June 2008, Rahall and Grijalva led the Committee in approving an emergency resolution to compel the Interior Department to withdraw these lands under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) — yet the agency refused to declare an emergency and failed to withdraw the lands. The Interior Department’s action today will stop future uranium mining claims for a two-year period, and has the potential to withdraw these public lands for up to 20 years.
The Subcommittee will proceed with a legislative hearing Tuesday, July 21, 2009, on the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protect Act of 2009, to ensure a permanent withdrawal of the acreage.