Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today praised the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) release of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) recommending a 20-year withdrawal from new mining claims of approximately 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon. The EIS, which culminates a two-year Department of the Interior assessment of various mining and land preservation proposals at the Canyon, fully supports Rep. Grijalva’s call to grant the maximum allowable protection under existing law.
The release comes after nearly 300,000 overwhelmingly supportive public comments were submitted on an earlier draft.
Multiple mining companies have pressed to open new uranium mines in the area, in some cases within five miles of the Canyon itself. Rep. Grijalva has long championed his bill permanently to withdraw the land in question, which includes national forest and BLM-managed lands in three parcels. Two are north of Grand Canyon National Park on BLM Arizona Strip and Kaibab National Forest lands, and one is in the Kaibab south of the Canyon. Grijalva’s bill is designed to ensure the environmental problems stemming from mining operations – including potential Colorado River contamination – are not re-debated each time an existing protection order expires.
“This has never been about corporations on one hand and environmentalists on the other,” Grijalva said. “This has been about disinterested science telling us we need to protect this land for the public good. This finding makes sure the Colorado River won’t be contaminated, the area will maintain its attraction for tourists all over the world, and the Grand Canyon will be preserved for future generations. This is the crown jewel of our National Parks system, not a random geological formation to be stripped for parts and sold to the highest bidder.”
The Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, introduced by Arizona GOP Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl and Reps. Paul Gosar, Jeff Flake, David Schweikert, Trent Franks and Ben Quayle, among others, would override and block the withdrawal by Congressional mandate. A House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the bill is set for Nov. 3.
“Congress doesn’t need to override a thoroughly studied, popularly supported recommendation to protect the Grand Canyon,” Grijalva said of the bill. “It’s as simple as that. They’re ignoring the public will and pushing a back-door corporate giveaway of our nation’s heritage despite the express public will to defend this land. I have to wonder what the motive is behind trying so hard to open the Grand Canyon for business when every federal expert studying the issue has told us this territory should be preserved.”
The newly released final EIS estimates that up to 11 uranium mines could still operate in the area during the next 20 years even if the maximum area is withdrawn, including each of the four mines already approved.
A30-day public review period for the final EIS begins today in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. After 30 days, Secretary Salazar will issue a formal final decision to withdraw the land for the next 20 years.