Interior Department Finalizes 20-Year Ban on Grand Canyon Area Uranium Mining

Grand Canyon from the South Rim (photo by navajo)

Although the direction of the administration was made clear in October, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will on Monday finalize a 20-year ban on new uranium-mining on some one million acres of land near the Grand Canyon. The announcement will be made at the National Geographic Society HQ in Washington, D.C.

The ban, which is actually an extension of an existing ban, has been under consideration since 2009. Under the Bush administration, thousands of new mining claims had been encouraged under the 1872 Mining Act.

After Salazar’s position became clear when he chose “Alternative B” from the Bureau of Land Management’s final environmental impact statement on withdrawing lands, Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, as well as Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, announced their intention to introduced legislation that would allow new uranium mining.

Alternative B bars 1,006,545 acres of federal lands from new mining. It allows previously approved operations to continue and some new operations on mining claims with valid existing rights. The federal lands are located on two parcels north of the Grand Canyon National Park and one parcel south of the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab National Forest.

The move no doubt would be approved by a Republican President unlike any we have seen since, Teddy Roosevelt, who said in a speech at the Grand Canyon more than a century ago:

Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it.”

Some people just can’t stand to see any land unmolested by development or mining. Thankfully, these million acres are getting another 20-year reprieve. But count on the “improvers” to be back licking their chops about 18 years from now.  

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