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For Immediate Release, March 28, 2008


Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790
Richard Mayol, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
David Nimkin, National Parks Conservation Association, (801) 521-0785

Conservation Groups Support Mining Ban to
Protect Grand Canyon Watershed

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— Conservation groups strongly supported legislation sponsored by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) to ban new mining claims near Grand Canyon National Park at a Congressional hearing in Flagstaff today.

Rep. Grijalva, who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, organized the hearing to consider the impacts to Grand Canyon and nearby communities from thousands of new uranium-mining claims staked in watersheds north and south of the park.

More than 2,000 new claims alone have been registered on national forest land outside of the popular South Rim park entrance, and a mining company has recently proposed exploration for mineral deposits in the area.

“What is it about Grand Canyon that the miners don’t get?” said Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, and it deserves protection for generations to come. Radioactive pollution from uranium mining is a threat to park visitors and wildlife, nearby Native American communities and southwestern cities which get their water from the Colorado River.”

The Colorado River and its tributaries provide drinking water to more than 30 million people in California, Arizona and Nevada – including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

“Grand Canyon is a national treasure that should be protected from the impacts of nearby uranium mining,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This legislation would afford those protections.”

Earlier this month Rep. Grijalva introduced legislation, HR 5583, to place one million acres of federal public land off limits to new mining claims in watersheds around Grand Canyon still open to mining development.

The Mining Law of 1872 still applies to most public land and allows companies to establish mining rights without regard for other uses or effects to the area.

“We applaud Congressman Grijalva’s leadership in taking action to safeguard Grand Canyon and making it clear that mining does not take precedence over protecting the watershed, water supplies, native peoples and our national parks,” said Richard Mayol with the Grand Canyon Trust.

Opposition to uranium exploration and mining near Grand Canyon has also been expressed by nearby tribes, Coconino County, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and Governor Janet Napolitano.

“America’s national park system is one of our greatest ideas, and the Grand Canyon represents that idea to people around the world,” said David Nimkin with the National Parks Conservation Association. “This is a place for nature to dominate, not industrial development.”

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