Today, the Obama administration took another important step towards protecting the Grand Canyon from uranium mining. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the Northern Arizona Proposed Withdrawal Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public review, and the Obama administration once again reiterated its support for a withdrawal of the full 1 million acres. This action initiates a 30-day review period after which the Secretary of Interior can make and issue a final decision.
The Grand Canyon is currently threatened by over 1000 uranium mining claims near its borders. Uranium mining can harm soil, ground and surface water. Uranium mining is governed by a patchwork of federal and state laws, including partial regulation under the 1872 Mining Law, an archaic statute that considers mining to be the highest and best use of the federal land. In 2009, over 100,000 public comments caused the Department of Interior (DoI) to create a two-year moratorium on mining around the Grand Canyon. Earlier this year, DoI received nearly 300,000 comments in favor of the 1 million acre withdrawal.
Earthworks and our partners hope that our fight to protect the Grand Canyon will end this year with the final decision from Secretary Salazar to protect this national treasure. Despite the potential for serious environmental impacts and the clear public support for the withdrawal, Republican members of the House and Senate have introduced legislation to attempt to stop the Obama administration from moving forward with the withdrawal.
The risk of potential damage is too great to risk such an iconic landscape, and I applaud the Obama administration for recognizing the sacred lands and vital waters are more precious than short-term profits for multinational mining companies.