The Grand Canyon is a HUGE tourist attraction that is responsible for 12,000 jobs and draws people from around the world. Chuck Deppert with the PEW foundation is working to nudge the Federal Government to set aside 1 million acres adjoining the Grand Canyon.
President Obama shortly will render a decision that will determine the future well-being of one of the crown jewels of America’s National Park System: Grand Canyon National Park. At issue is whether to extend the current moratorium on new mining claims on national forest and other federal land around the park or allow expanded uranium mining at the doorstep of this American treasure.
The rash of new claims at the doorstep of Grand Canyon National Park stems from the 1872 Mining Law, a frontier-era statute than allows “free and open access” to nearly 350 million acres of public land. This includes the right to take more than $1 billion annually in uranium and other precious metals from federal holdings without compensating taxpayers through royalty payments, according to the Congressional Budget Office. While members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have called for modernization of this antiquated statute, reform has never crossed the finish line.
In July of 2009, in response to the skyrocketing number of new mining claims for uranium and other hardrock minerals near Grand Canyon National Park, the Obama administration issued a two-year moratorium on new claimstaking to protect roughly one million acres of public lands surrounding it. Now it must decide whether to grant a 20-year moratorium on new claimstaking as provided for under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
As part of this process, the Interior department presented four proposals—without recommendation—for new claimstaking on federal land around Grand Canyon National Park. However, only one—Alternative B—continues the current “time out” on new mining claims on the full one million acres. It is the only proposal that would fully protect the scenic splendor of this natural treasure and its wildlife habitat, tribal and cultural sites, recreation opportunities, tourism-related jobs and drinking water for downstream users. The others would allow new claimstaking to resume on all or some portion of the federal holdings around the park that are currently off-limits. The public has until May 4, 2011 to comment.
The four alternatives proposed by the Obama administration are outlined below:
Do nothing, let the timeout on claimstaking expire and allow mining around the park to proceed under existing regulations. Under this action, regulators would expect approximately 725 exploration projects and 30 mines during the next 20 years, generating more than 300,000 ore-hauling trips and using more than 300 million gallons of water.
Put roughly 1 million acres in sensitive areas around Grand Canyon National Park off limits from new mining claims for a period of 20 years, the longest time for initial protection allowed by current law. This “withdrawal” would protect resources such as important habitat for threatened and endangered species, rich archeological areas, special springs and streams and certain lands considered sacred by Native American tribes. Because the claimstaking ban does not affect holders who already have made a valid discovery of minerals, the Department of the Interior anticipates that 11 mines would still go forward under this option.
Put a 20-year ban on claimstaking on just less than 653,000 acres, allowing 18 mines to operate.
Institute the ban in a more limited area of roughly 300,000 acres and allow a predicted 26 mines.
What’s at Stake?
The future of the Grand Canyon and its role in protecting biodiversity, water quality, cultural resources, recreational opportunities and the economies of gateway communities will be threatened if new uranium or other metal mining around its borders becomes the priority and dominant use. A few facts:
What You Can Do
Please join a diverse group of organizations and businesses from across the country in signing onto the attached letter in support of the full withdrawal – under Alternative B – of one million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Future generations will be grateful for your efforts. Many thanks.
For more information, contact Erik DuMont at EDuMont@pewtrusts.org
Save the Grand Canyon Sign-on Letter
Dear President Obama:
Each year more than five million people visit Grand Canyon National Park to experience what President Theodore Roosevelt said is “the one great sight which every American should see.” In the near future, you must decide whether this timeless treasure will endure as Roosevelt envisioned or be compromised by new uranium mining at its doorstep.
In response to the skyrocketing number of new uranium mining claims around the park, in 2009 your administration wisely called a two-year halt. Now you must determine whether to extend that moratorium for the next 20 years – and how much of the land to set off limits. What hangs in the balance is not only the splendor of the Grand Canyon but also important wildlife habitat, tribal and cultural sites, recreation opportunities, almost 300,000 tourism-related jobs, and safe drinking water for millions of Americans.
Please extend the moratorium on mining claims on all one million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park and protect this American icon for future generations.
Organizations, businesses, city and county councils and governmental entities from all 50 states