The U.S. House of Representatives has included a provision in a spending bill that would short-circuit a 2-year-old ban on new uranium mining covering one million acres of public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park. But local businesses and sportsmen say that protecting these lands from new uranium mining is critical for supporting hunting, fishing, and tourism jobs in the region.
The mining “rider” is included in the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill
for FY2012. The measure comes on the heels of a June 20 announcement by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that the department would extend the current ban on new uranium mining ban for another six months while science and public input is evaluated and this fall, potentially recommend a full withdrawal of 1 million acres of public land around the Grand Canyon from mineral leasing for 20 years.
“Secretary Salazar made the right decision to support tourism by protecting the Grand
Canyon from uranium mining,” said Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO of the
Sedona Chamber of Commerce. “The sponsors of this rider need to understand that they are hurting our economy, not helping it, if they allow new mining claims to move forward.”
Tourism to Grand Canyon National Park fuels nearly $700 million in annual economic
activity. The Colorado River, which flows through the Grand Canyon, provides
drinking water for 25 million Americans, recreational opportunities, and fish
“Uranium mining threatens to pollute our clean water and spoil habitat for fish and big
game near the Grand Canyon,” said Jim Stipe, chairman of the Arizona Council of
Trout Unlimited. “Fishing and hunting are big business in Arizona, especially
near the Grand Canyon, and have been for generations.”
According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, hunting and fishing
contribute $1.34 billion to the state of Arizona and support more than 17,000 jobs.
“While nuclear energy is important to both the environment and the economy of the United States, this is not the place to mine this resource,” said Steve Clark, president of the Arizona Elk Society. “As Secretary Salazar said: “Let us be cautious.” Caution could protect our water supplies and wildlife habitat, and preserve these areas for future generations to enjoy.”
Prior to the Secretary’s announcement last month to extend the uranium mining moratorium, approximately 300,000 Westerners made their voices heard in a public comment period — including many from people whose lives and livelihoods depend on the Grand Canyon and surrounding lands.