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For Immediate Release, May 5, 2009

Contact: 

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790

Bureau of Land Management Defies Congressional Uranium Ban,
Approves New Exploration North of Grand Canyon

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— Documents obtained today by conservation groups reveal that on April 27 the Bureau of Land Management authorized Quaterra Alaska, Inc. to conduct uranium mine exploration operations across five separate projects on public lands north of Grand Canyon National Park. The authorization violates a June 2008 congressional resolution prohibiting new uranium claims and exploration across 1 million acres of public lands surrounding the Park. The Bureau’s previous 2008 uranium exploration authorizations within the million acres caused the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club to file suit against then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for violating the resolution. Despite the ongoing litigation, which claims violations of the Federal Land Management and Policy Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and other laws, the groups received no notice of the Bureau of Land Management’s new authorizations.

“The Bureau’s continuing defiance of Congress on behalf of the uranium industry threatens one of our nation's most beloved national parks,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time the Bureau of Land Management received the leadership it needs to put the Grand Canyon uranium rush to bed.”

Spikes in the price of uranium during the past two years have caused thousands of new uranium claims, dozens of exploratory drilling projects, and movement to open several uranium mines on public lands immediately north and south of Grand Canyon. Concerns about damage to wildlife habitat as well as surface- and groundwater contamination of Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River have been expressed by previous Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano; the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; the Southern Nevada Water Authority; the Arizona Game and Fish Department; the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, Hualapai, and Kaibab Paiute nations; and the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.

“It’s time for public land managers to obey the law. Sadly, the message of change has been slow to penetrate the bureaucracy,” said Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust’s air and energy director

The U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Natural Resources on June 25, 2008 voted 20-2 in favor of a resolution requiring the secretary to withdraw public lands surrounding Grand Canyon from new uranium claims and exploration, which the new authorizations violate. Emergency withdrawals have been enacted four times prior to this, most recently in 1981 and 1983 by the late Arizona Congressman Mo Udall and the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee to halt public lands mineral- and energy-leasing programs pursued by Interior Secretary James Watt. Congressman Raúl Grijalva also introduced the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act in March of 2008 and again in 2009, legislation that would permanently withdraw from mineral extraction the same 1 million acres encompassed by the Committee resolution.

“The Grand Canyon is a national treasure and something we should protect not just for today, but for future generations,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “It is irresponsible for the Bureau of Land Management to sacrifice this area, threaten the Park, and risk the water supply for millions of people, all for a few narrow special interests.”

Plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys Marc Fink of the Center for Biological Diversity, Neil Levine of Grand Canyon Trust, and Roger Flynn of Western Mining Action Project.  Plaintiffs are evaluating how they will respond to the Bureau of Land Management’s new authorizations in the context of their ongoing lawsuit.

Click on the links below to view the following documents:

April 27, 2009 Bureau of Land Management uranium exploration authorizations
Map of newly authorized uranium exploration in violation of emergency withdrawal
Conservationists’ lawsuit against Kempthorne
Map of previous uranium exploration authorized in violation of emergency withdrawal
Map of uranium claims, seeps, and springs in withdrawal area
Letter by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano
Letter by Los Angeles Water District
Coconino County Grand Canyon uranium resolution
Testimony of Dr. Larry Stevens
Testimony of Dr. Abe Springer
Testimony of Robert Arnberger, former Grand Canyon National Park superintendent
Testimony of Roger Clark
Testimony of Chris Shuey
Supplement to Chris Shuey Testimony
Letter dated July 15 from Department of Interior
Letter dated July 16 by Congressman Rahall 

The Grand Canyon Trust is a regional, non-profit conservation organization
committed to protecting and restoring the Colorado Plateau

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 220,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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