Jan. 9, 2011, Sierra Club press release:
WASHINGTON, DC -- Department of Interior Secretary Salazar today finalized protections that will prevent new mining and mineral exploration on more than a million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park. The 20-year protection from uranium and other hard rock mining comes as thousands of mining claims and several new mines threaten to industrialize the public lands around one of America's greatest natural wonders.
View of the Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon. The river provides drinking water and irrigation for millions of people in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. Today's decision by Secretary of the Interior Salazar protects this water and valuable public land around the Grand Canyon from dangerous uranium and hard rock mining -- for 20 years. (Keweenaw Now file photo © Gustavo Bourdieu)
"The Sierra Club applauds the decision to protect these valuable public lands. The majesty of the Grand Canyon has inspired generations of Americans. It has and will continue to play a key role in our country's history, our culture and our economy. It is no place for destructive mining," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
More than 4 million people visit Grand Canyon National Park each year, contributing over $680 million to the Northern Arizona economy.
"This is a great day for Grand Canyon National Park and all those who care about the park and the surrounding public lands and waters," said Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club's Grand Canyon chapter director. "Today's decision protects not only the area around the Grand Canyon, but water that helps feed the Colorado River, which provides drinking water for millions of people downstream.
This photo, taken from a Grand Canyon tour bus, shows an old mine site left from the early 20th century. (Keweenaw Now file photo © Gustavo Bourdieu)
In addition to damaging Native American sacred sites and threatening wildlife, uranium mining would threaten to permanently pollute the groundwater and springs of the Colorado River watershed. Millions of people in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada rely on the Colorado River for drinking water and irrigation.
"Protecting the Grand Canyon area will safeguard water quality, wildlife and local communities. We hope that President Obama will build on today's decision and expand permanent protection for the treasured areas around the North Kaibab Plateau in Arizona, adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Protecting the Grand Canyon Watershed as a national monument will provide vital protection for an area unlike any other in the world," said Brune.
Today's announcement follows efforts by Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ), scientists, tribal and local government leaders, businesses and hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals to secure protections for the region and its waters.