The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488

Public Supports Protecting Grand Canyon and One Million Acres of Public Lands From Mining


Today conservationists join tribal leaders, city and county
officials, and people from throughout Arizona in supporting the
protection of one million acres of public lands near Grand Canyon.
Supporters of the protections will attend a public hearing this evening
in Flagstaff to tell the Interior Department to move forward with a
mineral withdrawal to protect the lands from future mining activities.
The hearing will be held at the High Country Conference Center at
Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff starting at 6:00 p.m.

is an exciting opportunity to provide protections for the land and the
waters around Grand Canyon as well as for the Colorado River and the
drinking water for millions of people in the Southwest," said Sandy
Bahr, director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter. "We are
asking that the Department of the Interior move forward with a proposed
action to safeguard this area from uranium mining for the next 20

In August, Interior announced its
preparation of an environmental impact statement evaluating a proposed
20-year "mineral withdrawal" that would prohibit new mining claims and
the exploration or mining of existing claims without valid existing
rights across nearly one million acres of public lands surrounding
Grand Canyon National Park. The purpose of the mineral withdrawal would
be to protect Grand Canyon's watersheds from the adverse effects of new
uranium exploration and mining. If approved, the withdrawal would
extend and strengthen protections set forth in the two-year land
segregation announced by the Department on July 20, 2009.

uranium mining would pose unacceptable risks to Grand Canyon's
watersheds and wildlife," said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns
director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Department of the
Interior's proposed mineral withdrawal would help to abate those risks
and secure the Grand Canyon's future."

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; it also threatens to contaminate
aquifers that discharge into Grand Canyon National Park and the
Colorado River.

"Uranium mining has already done
irreparable harm to our region's people, water, and land," said Grand
Canyon Trust spokesman Roger Clark. "We should not repeat the mistakes
of the past on our public watersheds surrounding the Grand Canyon."

uranium development on the lands involved in the withdrawal has drawn
criticism from scientists, city officials, county officials, former
Governor Janet Napolitano, the Navajo, Kaibab-Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai
and Havasupai tribes, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Statewide polling
conducted by Public Opinion Strategies shows overwhelming public
support for withdrawing from mineral entry the lands near Grand Canyon;
Arizonans support protecting the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining
by a two-to-one margin.

The deadline for public
comment on the first phase of the mineral withdrawal analysis is
October 26, 2009. Comments can be submitted at the meeting, emailed to
or mailed to Grand Canyon Mining Withdrawal Project, ATTN: Scott
Florence, District Manager, Arizona Strip District Office, 345 E.
Riverside Drive, Saint George, UT 84790-6714.