The chairman of the House national parks subcommittee believes sufficient threat exists to Grand Canyon National Park to withdraw more than 1 million acres from the possibility of being mined for uranium.
Turning to a section of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Rep. Raul Grijalva is calling for an emergency declaration to withdraw public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining activities. Under section 204(e) of FLPMA, such emergency withdrawals are allowed when "extraordinary measures must be taken to preserve values that would otherwise be lost."
"I feel compelled to submit this request for emergency action due to the immediate and grave threat to the Grand Canyon National Park, the crowned jewel of our national park system," said Rep. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat. "The Colorado River and its tributaries carved this natural cathedral known as the Grand Canyon, and its waters now support one of the largest desert civilizations in world history, including Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego."
The issue of uranium mining and the Grand Canyon surfaced late last year after the U.S. Forest Service decided, without holding any public hearings, to allow for exploration of the radioactive fuel within a few miles of the park. Earlier this year three groups filed a lawsuit to halt the exploration, saying the Forest Service failed to follow National Environmental Policy Act guidelines when it authorized Vane Minerals to drill test holes at up to 39 sites near the Grand Canyon.
Now Congressman Grijalva is asking the Interior Department to use its vested authority to block further mining.
There are examples of past administrative compliance with the emergency withdrawal declarations the congressman is calling for. In 1981, the Interior secretary issued Public Land Order No. 5952, withdrawing 1.5 million acres of national forest lands in the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Great Bear Wilderness Areas from mineral leasing.
"We cannot wait while uranium mining claims continue to be filed and the Bush Administration continues to use the exclusionary clause to allow uranium mining exploration and eventual mining operations within the Kaibab National Forest," says Congressman Grijalva.
Under section 204(e) of FLMPA, when the Interior secretary determines that an emergency exists or when either of the two congressional committees specified in section 204(e) of the act (43 U.S.C. 1714(e)) notifies the secretary that an emergency exists, the secretary shall immediately make a withdrawal which shall be limited in scope and duration to the emergency.
Congressman Grijalva's resolution authorizes and directs House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, D-WV, to notify the Interior secretary and the Agriculture secretary, on its behalf, that the committee finds that an emergency situation exists regarding uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park and that pursuant to section 204(e) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1714(e)) and 43 CFR 2310.5, the Interior secretary shall, subject to valid existing rights, immediately withdraw the approximately 1,068,908 acres of federal land generally depicted on the map entitled, "Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2008," dated May 28, 2008, and accompanying this resolution from all forms of location and entry under the United States mining laws (30 U.S.C. 22 et seq.) for a period not to exceed three years.