For Immediate Release
Kathleen O'Neil, National Parks Conservation Association, (202) 384-8894 (cell)
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488 (office), (928) 890-7515
Stacey Hamburg, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter, (928) 774-6514
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Carletta Tilousi, Havasupai Tribal Council, (480) 296-3984
Loretta Jackson-Kelly, Hualapai Nation, (928) 380-4429
Tribes, Conservation Groups Tell Congress to Protect Grand Canyon From Mining, Dam Operations, and Other Environmental Threats
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. - Today representatives from the Havasupai and Hualapai tribes will
join representatives of conservation groups in voicing united support of
legislation proposed by Congressman Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act, that would
permanently protect Grand Canyon's watersheds from new uranium mining.
The legislation will be discussed as one part of a two-part joint
congressional hearing tomorrow at Grand Canyon National Park; the
hearing will also address impacts of Glen Canyon Dam to the Colorado
River and endangered native fish.
Spikes in uranium prices have caused thousands of new
uranium claims, dozens of proposed exploration drilling projects, and
proposals to reopen old uranium mines adjacent to Grand Canyon. Renewed
uranium development threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and
industrialize now-wild and iconic landscapes bordering the park.
Uranium mining also threatens to deplete and contaminate aquifers that
discharge into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River. As a
result of past mining, the National Park Service now warns
against drinking from several creeks in the Canyon exhibiting
elevated uranium levels.
Water levels in the Colorado River, the force that
created the canyon, are also a concern. This desert river is the
primary source of water for populations in the Southwest and Southern
California, and has been a focus of political, legal, and economic
maneuvers for almost a century. However, the dams that make that
possible have profoundly changed the flows, sediment dynamics, and
water temperature of the river through the canyon. This has
substantially altered the natural condition of the Grand Canyon and
threatens native species and hundreds of archeological sites.
Recognition of these consequences led to the passage of
the landmark Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 and the implementation
of three high-flow experiments and monitoring of Glen Canyon Dam's
operations. Despite these steps, the dam operations continue to degrade
the park's features and habitat. Recovery will necessitate steady
flows that allow sediment to be replenished and a commitment to
implementing adaptive management based on results of research.
Testimony will also comment on the continuing lack,
after 20 years of work, of rules that control noise in the canyon from
commercial air tours and overflights, as well as the lack of funding for
the National Park Service to properly maintain and protect the park,
which attracts about 4.5 million visitors per year.
The testimony marks years of work on these issues by the
participating groups. The proposal to develop uranium mining in
particular has provoked litigation,
and statements of concern and opposition from scientists; city
officials; county officials, including Coconino County; former Governor
Janet Napolitano; state representatives; the Navajo Nation, and the
Kaibab Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai tribes; the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California; and the Southern Nevada Water
Authority, among others. Statewide polling conducted by Public Opinion
Strategies shows overwhelming public support for protecting the lands
near Grand Canyon from mining activities; Arizonans support protecting
the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining by a two-to-one margin.
The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act would
permanently protect 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand
Canyon National Park by prohibiting new mining claims and the
exploration and mining of existing claims for which valid existing
rights have not been established. The public lands protected by the
bill - the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest south
of the Canyon, the Kanab Creek watershed north of the Park, and House
Rock Valley, between Grand Canyon National Park and Vermilion Cliffs
National Monument - are the last remaining public lands surrounding
Grand Canyon National Park not protected from new uranium development.
In a similar move, the Interior Department in July 2009
enacted a 1-million-acre land segregation order, now in force, and proposed a
withdrawal to prohibit new mining claims and the exploration and
mining of existing claims for which valid existing rights have not been
established. Despite that segregation, the Bureau of Land Management
has allowed mining to proceed at the long-closed Arizona 1 Mine just
north of Grand Canyon. The Bureau's failure to update environmental
reviews from 1988 prior to allowing the mine to reopen provoked litigation in the fall of 2009 from the Center for
Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club. Today those
same groups filed a motion in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona, for a
preliminary injunction to halt mining activities.