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Center for Biological Diversity: Conservationists Call for Grand Canyon Uranium Decision Withdrawal

February 11, 2008
1:02 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790

Conservationists Call for Grand Canyon Uranium Decision Withdrawal

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA - February 11 - Citing widespread public opposition and a flawed environmental review, conservationists today requested that the Kaibab National Forest withdraw approval of up to 39 new uranium-exploration drilling sites immediately south of Grand Canyon National Park. The Forest Service had claimed that the proposed drilling was exempt from detailed environmental review because it would have no effect on the environment.

“Uranium development and the Grand Canyon just don’t mix,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It should go without saying that drilling for radioactive materials on the banks of a national treasure is controversial.”

The Forest Service approved the exploration, located on the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest, by using a “categorical exclusion,” thereby excluding the project from detailed public review and analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The approval failed to consider the potential for serious environmental impacts, public controversy, and the overall cumulative impacts of additional uranium-exploration projects expected later this year in the same area.

The current uranium boom is fueled by a 15-fold increase in uranium prices during the past eight years that has resulted in 1600 uranium-mining claims on the Tusayan Ranger District alone.

“In the face of uranium’s tragic history, the new uranium boom at the doorstep of Grand Canyon is a serious problem,” said McKinnon.

While the Forest Service’s options under the antiquated 1872 Mining Law are limited, it doesn’t negate the Service’s separate duty under the National Environmental Policy Act for detailed public and environmental review of such proposals.

“The Grand Canyon is a world-class natural wonder that deserves maximum protection, including from activities on surrounding public lands,” said Sandy Bahr of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Any new uranium development should allow the maximum opportunity for public involvement and should be scrutinized extensively in order to protect this national treasure. The Forest Service cannot hide behind the mining law to preclude detailed public and environmental review.”

Conservationists’ request come on the heels of a unanimous resolution last week by the Coconino County Board of Supervisors opposing uranium development around Grand Canyon and supporting Congressional efforts to withdraw the area from future uranium development.

“Uranium development at the Grand Canyon highlights the urgent need to reform the mining law,” said McKinnon. “But around Grand Canyon the ultimate solution may well be a law prohibiting new uranium development. Until then, we’ll pursue all administrative and legal mechanisms to prevent a repeat of uranium’s tragic history.”

To view a copy of the conservation groups’ letter, click here.

To view a copy of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors’ uranium resolution, click here.


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