Washington, D.C. – Today, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) held a legislative hearing on the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 644).
This past June, Arizona Senators McCain and Kyl sent a letter to Subcommittee Chairman Grijalva discouraging him from pursuing The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act, which would permanently protect lands around the Grand Canyon from future mining claims. The Senators claimed that the Arizona Wilderness Act addressed all land management issues in the early 1980’s. They also expressed concern that Chairman Grijalva would be “violating a historic agreement” negotiated by then House Interior Committee Chairman, Morris Udall.
Mr. Udall’s former staffer, Mark Trautwein, who worked for Udall for 12 years and negotiated the Arizona Wilderness Act, testified at today’s hearing. He soundly refuted the allegations of the Senators, stating that “Neither the history nor the provisions of the Arizona Wilderness Act support the idea expressed in the Senate letters that these events settled issues raised by H.R. 644. On the contrary the two acts are entirely different in scope and purpose.”
Following the hearing, Chairman Grijalva released the following statement:
“In the tradition of great conservation leaders such as Mo Udall, Congress must address the modern challenges facing the Grand Canyon and the West. That means protecting water quality and responding to climate change. Today’s testimony demonstrated why we must do our part to respond to these growing problems.
“Last year, the Natural Resources Committee notified the previous administration that the pressures placed on the Canyon and its resources by exploding demand for uranium constituted an emergency. Unfortunately, the previous Administration refused to Act. In contrast, the Obama Administration has announced a decision to segregate nearly 1 million acres of critical lands adjacent to the Park to conduct a thorough study of the appropriateness of allowing mining on these lands.
“This is an important first step. I commend the President and Secretary Salazar for their leadership on this issue. Until we have a better understanding of the impact a new uranium boom will have on this American landmark — and what impact it will have on THE water source of the West, the Colorado River — the Administration is right to provide a “time-out” to take a hard look. Now it is time for the Congress to do its part by devising permanent protection for this national treasure.
“Times change, and that is something former Chairman Mo Udall understood and respected. According to his former staffer, Mark Trautwein, who testified at our hearing today, the great conservation leader never expected his legislation to be the last word on protecting the lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. With the growing threat of uranium mining at the Park’s edge, today’s testimony showed that this issue is about water quality and an American treasure. As a Congressman from the great state of Arizona, it is my duty to protect and defend the Grand Canyon for future generations to enjoy.
“And I hope Senators McCain and Kyl will do the right thing and join me in protecting the jewel of Arizona.”