How strong is the market for uranium? Is nuclear energy a key component of the nation's energy future? How many jobs would be created by allowing mining of uranium around the Grand Canyon National Park?
Those are some of the questions to be asked as the House of Representatives moves, possibly as soon as Monday, to vote on a measure that would prevent Interior Secretary Ken Salazar from placing a moratorium on new mining claims on some 1 million acres surrounding the national park.
Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake put a rider on the Interior Department's appropriations bill to tie the Interior secretary's hands.
"Uranium mining outside of Grand Canyon National Park can create jobs and stimulate the economy in northern Arizona without jeopardizing the splendor and natural beauty within the park," the congressman said in a statement posted on his website. "That's why the proposed moratorium on new uranium claims is opposed by state and local officials in Arizona."
Now, as we pointed out earlier, Rep. Flake's comments about Arizona opposition to the moratorium isn't exactly accurate. Officials for the Central Arizona Project, which uses a 336-mile-long aqueduct system to provide water to nearly 80 percent of Arizona's 6.5 million residents, have expressed concern over uranium mining around the park in a joint letter cosigned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
And, a number of sportsmen's groups oppose mining on the lands. Indeed, multiple local and national sportsmen’s organizations sent a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar to thank him for upholding the temporary moratorium on new uranium mining claims, and requested that he extend the ban to 20 years when his agency’s analysis is completed this fall.
“Wildlife, fisheries and the water that supports us are not partisan issues,” the group letter states. “Uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park is wholly unacceptable given the best science available and the potential impacts not only to our natural resources but to the economy of Northern Arizona and the communities that drink Colorado River water.”
The Arizona Council of Trout Unlimited, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, Arizona Elk Society, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Anglers United Inc., and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership signed the letter. The organizations pointed to the risk of contamination to water supplies for people and wildlife, and warned that mining operations near Grand Canyon would fragment habitat for big game, including mule deer: “one of the most famous and studied deer herds in the world.”
Citing concerns for wildlife habitat, the bipartisan Arizona Game and Fish Commission has also endorsed the Interior proposal to withdraw 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining for the next 20 years.
The issue could come up in the House as soon as Monday when the chamber takes up the Interior appropriations bill. The National Parks Conservation Association has been working on Capital Hill and with an outreach campaign to alert park advocates of the upcoming vote.
What’s At Risk? The future of one of our nation’s, and the world’s, most revered treasures, and the legacy we will leave for our children and grandchildren. This policy rider would directly threaten one of the top 20 US travel destinations (according to Forbestraveler.com) and America’s only one of seven natural wonders of the world. It also threatens the quality of the Colorado River’s water on which more than 25 million people in Arizona, Nevada and California depend, and the surrounding economies that depend on the nearly 5 million visitors to the Grand Canyon each year. Further, area Native American groups would be affected, and are unified in support of the Sec. Salazar’s action to limit new uranium mining surrounding the Grand Canyon.
You can help by contacting your congressional representative and letting them know where you stand on the matter.