For Immediate Release
Bureau of Land Management Sued for Withholding Records on Uranium Mines That Threaten Grand Canyon
Agency Ignores Obama's Freedom of Information Directive
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK - Today the Center for
Biological Diversity sued the
U.S. Bureau of Land Management for illegally withholding public records
relating to uranium mines immediately north of Grand Canyon National
Park. The suit asserts that the Bureau violated
the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to disclose records pursuant to
a July 30, 2009 request submitted by the Center. The Bureau is withholding
the vast majority of eight linear feet of responsive records despite
directives from the Obama administration requiring the agency to respond to
information requests "promptly and in a spirit of cooperation"
and to adopt a "presumption of disclosure."
chasm between Obama's policies and the Bureau's practices are
as wide as the Grand Canyon itself,"
said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center.
"We've spent months giving the Bureau every opportunity to
fulfill our requests, but this is an agency that, even with the Grand Canyon and endangered species hanging in the
balance, refuses to voluntarily comply with open government or
of the records being withheld relate to the Arizona 1 mine. In November, the Center
for Biological Diversity and other plaintiffs sued the Bureau of Land Management
for refusing to undertake new National Environmental Policy Act and
Endangered Species Act reviews prior to allowing Denison Mines to resume
mining. The Bureau insists that 1988 compliances are adequate for the mine,
which operated for a short period prior to closing in the early 1990s.
Despite a host of new circumstances since 1988, including the listing of
threatened and endangered species, Bureau officials refuse to update
analyses for any of the mines near Grand Canyon National
Bureau of Land Management has painted a caricature of itself at the Grand Canyon," said McKinnon. "The agency
is acting as a secretive surrogate for the mining industry that views open
government, endangered species, and environmental laws as a nuisance rather
than a priority."
Interior Department in July 2009 enacted a land segregation
order, now in force, and proposed a 20-year mineral withdrawal, which is now
being analyzed, for one million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Both measures
prohibit new mining claims and the exploration and mining of existing
claims for which valid existing rights have not been established. The
Bureau of Land Management has failed to produce any documents demonstrating
the establishment of valid existing rights for the Arizona
1 mine or other mines around Grand Canyon.
officials have stated that many of the records requested by the Center for
Biological Diversity would be made available on a Bureau
Web site relating to the segregation order and proposed
mineral withdrawal. However, to date the Bureau has only posted Federal Register
notices, a few maps, fact sheets, and - perhaps speaking to its
orientation toward Interior's proposed mineral withdrawal - an antiquated video promoting
uranium mining that the Bureau developed in conjunction with the uranium
industry in the late 1980s.
legacy of past uranium mining still lingers as deadly radiological
contamination of land and water near and within Grand Canyon National
Park," said McKinnon. "To think
that new mining will yield different results is foolish and
Atwood, senior attorney and public lands energy director at the Center,
wrote and will argue today's lawsuit.
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 the Grand Canyon.
Renewed uranium development threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and
industrialize now-wild and iconic landscapes bordering the park; it also
threatens to deplete and contaminate aquifers that discharge into Grand Canyon National
Park and the Colorado River.
The Park Service warns against drinking from several creeks in the canyon
exhibiting elevated uranium levels in the wake of past uranium mining.
threats have provoked litigation; legislation; public protests and statements of concern and
opposition from scientists, city officials, county officials -
including from 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. 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.
today's lawsuit here.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.