For Immediate Release, June 25, 2008
Contact: Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Committee on Natural Resources Votes to Enact Emergency
Uranium Protections for Grand Canyon
Center Petitions Secretary of the Interior to Act Immediately
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— The Committee on Natural Resources today voted 20-2 in favor of a resolution that requires Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to enact emergency protections from uranium development across 1 million acres of federal public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
“Grand Canyon’s watersheds simply aren’t the place for uranium development,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This measure requires the Secretary of the Interior to enact emergency protections for those lands. We expect immediate action.”
Upon today’s vote, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) requires Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to immediately withdraw subject lands from mineral entry for three years. The law allows emergency withdrawals when “extraordinary measures must be taken to preserve values that would otherwise be lost.”
In a companion effort, the Center for Biological Diversity today also petitioned the Secretary under the Administrative Procedures Act to immediately enact the emergency withdrawal pursuant to the committee’s resolution and FLPMA.
“The petition affords us leverage should the Secretary and the Bush administration choose to ignore the law and continue pursuing uranium development in Grand Canyon’s watersheds,” said McKinnon.
Spikes in uranium prices in recent years have resulted in thousands of new uranium claims, dozens of uranium exploration projects, and efforts to open uranium mines in watersheds surrounding Grand Canyon. Scientists, tribal officials and current and past Grand Canyon National Park superintendents have raised concerns about the impacts of uranium development on Grand Canyon’s seeps, springs, and unique biological diversity.
In April, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Grand Canyon Trust won a preliminary injunction against the Kaibab National Forest for allowing the first of five exploration projects south of Grand Canyon to proceed under a categorical exclusion from detailed environmental review.
In March, Congressman Grijalva introduced the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act, legislation that would permanently withdraw from mineral entry the same 1 million acres encompassed by the new resolution. Similar withdraws have been called for by scientists and elected officials, including Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.
“The Committee’s efforts and Congressman Grijalva’s bold leadership on this issue continue a long tradition of protecting the Grand Canyon that began a century ago this year with Teddy Roosevelt’s proclamation of Grand Canyon National Monument,” said McKinnon. “We applaud their efforts.”
To view a copy of the resolution, click here.
To view a copy of the Center’s petition, click here.