WASHINGTON— Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) is calling for a reversal of federal mining bans enacted during the Obama administration to protect Grand Canyon watersheds, national forests in Oregon and other pristine public lands.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Bishop says he wants to increase mining industry access to public lands.
“This is a dangerous attempt to sell off our public lands and minerals to corporate polluters at pennies on the dollar,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Mining jeopardizes public health, wildlife and wild places. Bishop’s attack on public lands is a gift to mining companies, but he’s completely out of step with the rest of the country.”
Public lands at risk include 1 million acres in the greater Grand Canyon region. The mining withdrawal enacted there in 2012 protects water and tribal resources from uranium mining contamination. It also safeguards critical regional wildlife corridors and habitat for numerous native species, many of which exist nowhere else on Earth.
“The Grand Canyon mining moratorium is a commonsense and necessary protection for one of the world’s most iconic landscapes,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Undoing this moratorium, completed after extensive review and public participation, would only endanger this one-of-a-kind geologic wonder and the indigenous communities that live within the Grand Canyon’s watershed.”
The region has struggled with the toxic legacies from previous uranium mining that has left pollution, health problems and unsustainable boom-and-bust economies. Nonpartisan polls show 80 percent of Arizona voters and 80 percent of Americans support having the temporary mining ban made permanent.
“We agree with Secretary of the Interior Zinke’s belief that ‘some places are too precious to mine,’” said Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark. “And Grand Canyon is one of those places.”
“The public strongly supports protecting lands around the Grand Canyon from toxic uranium mining. It is outrageous that Representative Bishop is seeking to put at risk one of our nation’s crown jewel national parks, Grand Canyon, the public lands surrounding it, and to ignore the millions of Americans who have stepped up to support protecting this region,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.
Also at risk are nearly 100,000 acres in Oregon’s Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, including wild and scenic rivers, fisheries, mountains and meadows. The halt in mining, to protect the region from nickel strip-mining companies, received broad public support from tribes, local communities, conservationists, sportsman and elected officials.
“Mining withdrawals were put in place at the urging of local communities who know too well the devastating effects these operations have on public health, wildlife and the environment,” said Katie Davis, western director of Wildlands Network. “No legitimate reason to overturn these withdrawals exists — neither the risks nor public sentiment have changed.”
In 2016 the Obama administration protected 30,000 acres of public land from mining just outside Yellowstone National Park. Earlier this year the U.S. Forest Service proposed a halt to mining across 230,000 acres of public land in Minnesota’s Rainy River watershed, which feeds clean water into the world-renowned Boundary Waters, Voyageurs National Park and Quetico Provincial Park.
Click here for a fact sheet on why the Grand Canyon mining ban protects water and tribal resources and the greater Grand Canyon ecosystem.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Since 1919 the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
The Grand Canyon Trust works to protect and restore the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau — its spectacular landscapes, flowing rivers, clean air, diversity of plants and animals, and areas of beauty and solitude.
Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is a national nonprofit environmental organization with approximately 2.7 million members and supporters, including more than 60,000 in Arizona. Sierra Club’s mission is “to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; and to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.
The mission of Wildlands Network is to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so that life in all its diversity can thrive. We envision a world where nature is unbroken, and where humans co-exist in harmony with the land and its wild inhabitants.
Allison Melton, Center for Biological Diversity, (970) 309-2008, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Dahl, National Parks Conservation Association, (520) 624-2014, email@example.com
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 286-3381, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790, email@example.com
Katie Davis, Wildlands Network, (801) 560-2414, firstname.lastname@example.org