Protecting the Grand Canyon

UPDATE: Read Rep. Grijalva's response to the Obama Administration's decision not to protect the Grand Canyon through a National Monument Designation by clicking here.

Uranium mining in land adjacent to the Grand Canyon has the potential to impact the entire Colorado River watershed, which would have wide-ranging effects on the National Park, human health, environmental quality, and the livelihood of neighboring Native communities.

When he first introduced the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act in 2008, Rep. Grijalva initiated ultimately successful efforts to withdraw approximately 1 million acres of federal lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park from future mining claims. He’s proud to have been the impetus for former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision to declare a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining claims in the 1 million acres described in the bill. The move came after Rep. Grijalva wrote to Salazar earlier in the year urging him to adopt the policy.

Working in his capacity as Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Grijalva on November 3rd, 2015 re-introduced the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act – a bill establishing a new national monument to the north and south of the Grand Canyon that protects a vital watershed and celebrates the long local history and deep cultural roots of the region’s Native American Tribes. A map of the proposed Monument is available here.

What Would Creating a National Monument Mean?

This summary briefly explains how the Monument would work, with an emphasis on collaborative decisionmaking with local stakeholders and Tribal leaders. 

If the national monument is created, it will “preserve, and if necessary restore:”

1) Native cultural sacred lands and tribal resources

2) National biological, ecological, cultural, scientific and other values found in the Grand Canyon, including above-ground tributaries, springs and interconnected groundwater, and

3) The opportunity to experience and enjoy the diverse tribal resources, landscape, wildlife, water flows and recreational use of the lands included in the national monument

What's the Environmental Impact?

In 2012, then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining claims on more than 1 million acres of public land surrounding the Grand Canyon. Uranium exposure continues to harm Northern Arizona residents, including Tribal communities. In order to protect many of Northern Arizona’s most sacred Native American sites and ecologically sensitive areas, Rep. Grijalva’s proposal – crafted in consultation with Tribal leaders from around the region – would make that moratorium permanent within the Monument.

By extending National Monument status to areas north and south of Grand Canyon National Park that currently enjoy lower levels of protection, Grijalva's proposal ensures that the Grand Canyon itself and the communities in the region will enjoy a higher level of environmental conservation in perpetuity.

Is This Good for the Economy?

The region will clearly benefit from the Monument, although some mining interests have tried to argue otherwise. You can learn more about how the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument will help the regional economy at the Myths and Facts page here

Do Tribes Support the Proposal?

Tribal leaders overwhelmingly support the Grijalva plan. You can read their resolutions and letters of support here.

Who Else Supports the Designation? 

Members of the City Council of Flagstaff have been sending letters of support for Grijalva's bill.

Arizona farmers, ranchers, and agricultural businesses sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack urging them to support protecting the watershed of the Grand Canyon as a national monument.

Is The Idea Popular With the Public?

recent national survey of registered voters likely to participate in the November 2016 election revealed overwhelming public support for establishing the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, with 82 percent saying they back its creation. This support is strong across political parties, demographic groups and geographical areas, with majority support in every major subgroup of the American electorate. This support stems from a widespread belief that more needs to be done to protect the land, air and water around Grand Canyon National Park. Half (50%) say they would be “more likely” to vote for a Presidential candidate who supported the creation of the Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument. For more information, view the complete survey analysis.

On July 7, 2016, public supporters from all over the country delivered more than 550,000 petition signatures to President Obama urging him to protect the area as a national monument under the Antiquities Act. To learn more, check out the news coverage in the Phoenix New TimesKNAU Public Radio (NPR) and Arizona Daily Sun.

Arizonans strongly support establishing the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument and agree that it will enhance the region’s cultural, natural, recreational and scientific resources. According to a Feb. 18 report in the Arizona Republic:

Eighty percent of likely 2016 Arizona voters approve of a statewide plan for a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument exceeding 1 million acres and banning new uranium mines, according to the poll sanctioned by the Grand Canyon Trust.

The support included 95 percent of Democrats polled, 84 percent of independents and 65 percent of Republicans. More than half — 58 percent — of the respondents said they “strongly” support a monument.

What Is the Media Saying About It?

The proposal has been supported in National Geographic, the New York Times and many other outlets. For a full overview of media coverage, click here and scroll down to "The Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act."

Tribal leaders and communities across the region – joined by sportsmen and women, hunters, anglers and outdoors enthusiasts – support the monument. They all agree: It’s time to establish the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument and further protect one of the crown jewels of our National Park System.

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