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Posted on 07-23-2009
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Salazar protects Grand Canyon from new uranium claims, exploration


Photo: Courtesy Sierra Club Sierra Club and tribal activists hold up a big “thank you” made from postcards collected to ask Secretary Salazar to stop new uranium claims near the Grand Canyon, Noah, Ruby, Andy Bessler, Sierra Club; Lillian Hill, Na
Conservationists are applauding a notice issued this week by the Obama administration to temporarily place 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon off limits to new mining claims and exploration or development of existing, unpatented claims. The order complies with a June 25th, 2008 resolution by the House Committee on Natural Resources enacting the same protections across the same area. The protections do not affect three existing mines in the area slated for reopening or the exploration of existing patented claims.

Uranium prices have caused sharp increases in new uranium mining claims, exploration, and permitting to reopen old mines on public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Uranium development threatens to damage wildlife habitat, industrialize iconic wildlands, and contaminate surface water and groundwater feeding regional water wells, seeps, springs and the Colorado River - prompting concerns from former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, Hualapai, and Kaibab Paiute tribes, Coconino County officials, and independent geologists.

"Secretary Salazar's decision secures a much-needed, but temporary respite from thousands of new uranium claims around the Grand Canyon," said Grand Canyon Trust spokesman Roger Clark. "For permanent protection, Congress now needs to pass the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act."

This week’s order aligns the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management direction with the 25 June 2008 resolution by the House Committee on Natural Resources, which directed the secretary of the interior to enact an "emergency withdrawal," banning new claims and exploration across the 1 million acres for three years. The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club filed suit against the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management in September 2008 for authorizing ...
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