Chair Grijalva Hails Passage of Public Lands Bills, Looks Forward to Senate Action on Grand Canyon Protection Measure, Other Major Conservation Goals

February 26, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today hailed passage of the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, a package of Natural Resources Committee bills that includes Grijalva’s Grand Canyon Protection Act; Rep. Joe Neguse’s (D-Colo.) Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act; and a collection of bills introduced in the last Congress as a package by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) under the heading Protecting America’s Wilderness Act.

The Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act designates approximately 1.49 million acres of public land as wilderness and incorporates more than 1,000 river miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The bill would also withdraw more than 1.2 million acres of public land from new oil and gas and mining claims, ensuring that iconic landscapes like the Grand Canyon and Colorado’s Thompson Divide are permanently protected from the irreversible threats posed by extraction.

The package now heads to the Senate, where Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) recently introduced the Grand Canyon Protection Act in that chamber.

The bills introduced in the previous Congress as the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act heading and now included in the new package are:

  • San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.)
  • Colorado Wilderness Act, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.)
  • Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)
  • Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.)
  • Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.)
  • Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

You can learn more about the package and how each bill protects public lands and our quality of life at https://naturalresources.house.gov/media/media-advisories/wilderness2021.

“Protecting our environment is not a matter of choice or political preference,” Grijalva said today. “It’s the only path forward for our country and our way of life. We know climate change is going to change the way we look at our land, our nation and ourselves. The more work we do to prepare now and protect the lands and waters we rely on, the better we’ll leave this world for our children and grandchildren.”

Statements of support for the overall package and various elements of the larger bill are included below.

SUPPORT FOR GRAND CANYON BILL AND OVERALL PACKAGE

Amber Reimondo, Energy Director, Grand Canyon Trust

“Today’s vote is an exciting step for many who have longed to see this watershed protected from the deadly risks of uranium mining, but I suspect especially for the people who have inhabited these lands since time immemorial. We are eternally grateful to Congressman Grijalva for his leadership and we’re ready to see this bill go through the Senate and onto President Biden’s desk.”

Sandy Bahr, chapter director, Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter

“Passage of the Grand Canyon Protection Act is critical to ensuring that the lands, water, wildlife, and people of the region are protected from the harmful and toxic effects of uranium mining. Today’s vote in the House brings these protections closer. It is now time for the Senate to do its job and protect Grand Canyon for this and future generations.”

Mike Quigley, Arizona State Director, The Wilderness Society

“We are grateful to Chairman Raúl Grijalva and to all House members who voted to pass the Grand Canyon Protection Act. This is a victory for one of our nation’s most beloved landscapes, for the conservation of Native American ancestral lands, the health of those who live in and around the Grand Canyon, and for the economic vitality of the state of Arizona. We now look to the Senate to complete the passage of this bill into law.”

Laura Dent, Executive Director with Chispa Arizona

“We’re excited about today’s historic vote on the House floor. We thank Charmain Grijalva for his bold leadership to protect the Grand Canyon, as well as the indigenous advocates that have been working to protect this sacred place for generations. This bill will protect and preserve one of Arizona’s most iconic sites and the water surrounding it. We must all work to protect the Canyon for the environment, cultural heritage, and the wellbeing of our communities. We look forward to seeing this bill move through Congress and get signed into  law.” 

Ándrea Trujillo Guajardo, Policy Director, Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors

“The Grand Canyon Protection Act would safeguard the lands we love that are home to Tribal communities, wildlife habitats, and critical water resources. Today’s vote is a commitment to all Americans that the Grand Canyon will remain pristine and grand for future generations to be able to enjoy. We thank Congressman Grijalva for his steadfast commitment in protecting this cherished landmark, and look forward to the advancement of this bill in the Senate.”

Blaine Miller-McFeeley, Senior Legislative Representative, Earthjustice

“Chairman Grijalva’s legislation will secure treasured wild lands and the health of communities in Arizona for generations to come, and Earthjustice is proud to support it. We are excited the House has yet again passed this legislation, and the Senate should pass this legislation without delay, as it would strengthen protections for ancestral lands long occupied and held sacred by the first people to inhabit them. It would ensure that the Grand Canyon area is protected and filled with recreational opportunities long into the future.”

Taylor McKinnon, senior campaigner at Center for Biological Diversity

“The Grand Canyon region has suffered 70 years of deadly uranium industry pollution, and this vote is an important step to prevent more. We applaud Congressman Grijalva and Congressman O’Halleran for their leadership to protect this spectacular place and its water, people and biodiversity. The Senate should swiftly approve the Grand Canyon Protection Act so the president can sign it into law.”

Scott Garlid, Executive Director Arizona Wildlife Federation

“Whether your desire to protect the Grand Canyon stems from an interest in its diverse wildlife, the waters of the Colorado River, the well-being of the Havasupai people, or the economic engine of tourism and outdoor recreation, this legislation makes good sense.  No matter how you slice it, permanent protection for Arizona's iconic Grand Canyon is a win for Arizona.  We thank Congressman Grijalva for his ongoing leadership and look forward to quick passage in both the House and the Senate.”

Nate Rees, Arizona coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Angler Conservation Program

“Arizonans have no greater treasure than the Grand Canyon, and it is a sporting paradise. With over one million acres protected, sportsmen and women can realize greater water quality and robust hunting habitats in perpetuity. We sincerely thank Representative Grijalva for introducing and working to pass this legislation.”

Jonathan Nez, President, Navajo Nation

“I applaud the House for moving the Grand Canyon Protection Act another step forward and for their support of preserving the land and protecting the health and well-being of all five-fingered beings that visit and reside in the Grand Canyon area. The Navajo people have endured long and devastating impacts of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining, therefore, we strongly oppose any permitting of uranium mining operations in the Grand Canyon region and the entire Navajo Nation. I am very appreciative of Congressman Grijalva’s leadership and support in this effort and we ask the Senate to support this important measure as well.” 

Amelia Flores, Chairwoman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes

“Without dramatic action, the Grand Canyon region, and the Colorado River that runs through it, will continue to be among the most ecologically distressed regions in our country. Our agricultural economy and our cultural, religious and spiritual heritage rely on this river.  That's why we support the Grand Canyon Protection Act--it will ensure that this water remains clean, wholesome, and abundant for the years to come.”

Dr. Damon Clarke, Chairman, Hualapai Tribe

“The Grand Canyon has been home to the Hualapai people for thousands of years, and its health is vital to our community.  The Colorado River brings us to understand life.  It is life. Without water we will not survive. Keeping the river clean for all users of the River, especially the Havasupai and Hualapai, is very critical to us as well as other users. The Hualapai Tribe supports the environmental protection efforts of Rep. Raul Grijalva through the Grand Canyon Protection Act, and hope that its passage will ensure a safer and more responsible future for our homeland.”

Matthew Putesoy Sr., Vice Chairman, Havasupai Tribe

“For years, the Havasupai Tribe has worked alongside our elected officials to protect our home and our ancestral lands. The passage of the Grand Canyon Protection Act is a significant step in the right direction that will help protect our sacred lands and waters from the harmful and often irreversible effects of uranium mining. Rep. Grijalva and other members of Congress have seen the importance of protecting and preserving the Grand Canyon region and on behalf of the Havasupai Tribe and all those that call this area home, we thank you for fulfilling this important obligation.”

Clark W. Tenakhongva, Vice Chairman, Hopi Tribe

“The Hopi People support and are grateful for Rep. Grijalva's leadership in protecting the sacred landscape that is the Grand Canyon. The Hopi Tribe requests the Senate to seize on the momentum and continue the rightful process from the House and pass the Grand Canyon Protection Act.”

SUPPORT FOR CALIFORNIA BILLS AND OVERALL PACKAGE

Representative Judy Chu (D-Calif.)

“The San Gabriel Mountains, with their beautiful rivers, forests, and mountain trails so close to the density of Los Angeles, are a true gift to the millions who have little to no access to parks or green space. That is why I want to make sure as many people as possible have the chance to visit, both today and for years in the future. That is what today’s vote will help accomplish. As our state grows and our climate changes, its untouched wild lands and habitats could disappear. The Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, which represents one of the most important steps for public lands protection in our state’s history, would ensure that hundreds of thousands of acres of wild lands and habitats in Southern, Central, and Northern California are protected for generations to come.”

Shanna Edberg, Director of Conservation Programs, Hispanic Access Foundation

“Passing the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act in the House is a necessary step forward to addressing inequitable access to the outdoors in California. Latinos and other communities of color are almost twice as likely to live somewhere that is nature deprived than white communities, meaning there are far fewer parks, streams, beaches, and other natural places nearby. This leaves our communities with a legacy of poorer health and COVID-19 severity, higher stress levels, worse educational outcomes, lack of recreation and business opportunities and greater vulnerability to extreme heat and flooding. The Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act is crucial for bringing nature, and therefore equity and justice, closer to our underserved communities. We hope the Senate will pass these important protections this year.”

Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro

“Our state is rich with natural treasures but not all communities can access and enjoy these places. That’s why I'm so excited that the House passed the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. Outdoor access is a fundamental right for us all. I look forward to working with the Senate to help protect our lands, wildlife, and waterways.”

Kate Hoit, Vet Voice Foundation’s California State Director and OIF veteran

“Throughout California veterans share a strong connection to our public lands. Today we celebrate the House passing four historic public lands bills. This legislation affirms the importance of outdoor access for the nearly two million veterans living in California.”

Hans Cole, Head of Environmental Activism, Patagonia

“We’ve worked to protect lands and waters across the country for decades, and we are excited to learn the House of Representatives has passed legislation to permanently protect public lands and rivers throughout our home state of California. Americans of all political backgrounds enjoy the outdoor recreation opportunities provided by public lands and waters, and protecting California’s natural environment is an important part of how we will slow the climate crisis. We urge the Senate to follow the House’s lead and approve this legislation.”

Gregg Foster, Executive Director of Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission

“Local economies in Northwest California benefit when people come to visit our spectacular, world-renowned public lands and rivers. I greatly appreciate and am excited to again celebrate House passage of this legislation that will protect and restore some of the region’s most cherished landscapes.”

Roberto Morales, Chair of the Nature for All Coalition

“The Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act ensures that public lands in California and across the country are conserved and that everyone, especially underserved communities, can enjoy the outdoors. Protecting nature and increasing access to the outdoors provides immense benefits to our health, economy and environment—especially at a time we need it most. We applaud the hard work of California champions—Representatives Chu, Huffman, Carbajal, and Schiff—to advance this legislation.”

Katie Hawkins, California Program Manager, Outdoor Alliance

“Outdoor Alliance is thrilled that the House of Representatives has taken action to pass the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. Protecting California public lands and waters is a win-win at a time when we need it. This package will improve outdoor recreation on some of California's most incredible landscapes, support local economies, and advance the state's goal of conserving 30% of its lands and waters by 2030. We look forward to championing these bills as they move on to the Senate.”

Dennis Arguelles, Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association

“Los Angeles is the second most populous metropolitan region of the country, yet has less open space per capita than all other large cities on the west coast. Expanding the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area represents an opportunity to better protect and manage some of the region’s last open spaces, critical wildlife habitat, and historic places. By facilitating partnerships between the National Park Service and local communities, it will help connect youth and families to these resources and ensure future generations have access to the region's natural and cultural treasures.”

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