Washington, D.C.– The Department of the Interior (DOI) earlier today released a draft proposal to regulate uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, offering four potential scenarios for public comment. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, urged DOI officials to continue the current policy of withdrawing approximately one million acres surrounding the national park from mining activities.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2009 declared a two-year moratorium on uranium mining in the area to allow DOI to assess what a longer-term policy should look like. The new proposal includes four potential regulatory avenues, including a 20-year withdrawal of the currently protected one million acres; a 20-year withdrawal of 650,000 acres; a 20-year withdrawal of 300,000 acres; and allowing mining to go forward throughout the affected area.
The land in question is in three parcels: two are north of Grand Canyon National Park on Bureau of Land Management and Kaibab National Forest lands, and one is in the Kaibab south of the canyon. Grijalva has strongly supported the two-year withdrawal, and today urged Salazar to extend the withdrawal of the currently protected one million acres in perpetuity as soon as possible.
“The administration made the right choice to protect one of America’s greatest and best known natural wonders in 2009, and they can make the right choice again by simply staying the course,” Grijalva said. “The moratorium has preserved these beautiful landscapes, and that has to be the main goal of any longer-term policy as we move forward. We need to permanently protect these lands to avoid having this same conversation every few decades.”
DOI will take public comment for 45 days beginning Feb. 18.