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For Immediate Release, August 21, 2009
Media Advisory

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713

Interior Secretary Salazar, Senators John McCain and Mark Udall to
Visit Grand Canyon Today Following Interior's July Uranium Moratorium

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz.— One month after the Department of the Interior enacted a two-year restriction on new uranium mining claims and exploratory drilling across 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and senators John McCain and Mark Udall will today visit the park and hold a press conference in the afternoon. The topic of the press conference has not been disclosed.

The Interior Department’s July 20 move prohibited new uranium claims and exploration of existing claims without valid existing mining rights across 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon. The prohibition will last for two years while the Department evaluates extending protections for up to an additional 20 years.

Spikes in uranium prices have caused thousands of new uranium claims, dozens of proposed exploration drilling projects, and proposals to reopen old uranium mines adjacent to Grand Canyon. Renewed uranium development threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and industrialize now-wild and iconic landscapes bordering the park; it also threatens to contaminate aquifers that discharge into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River. The Park Service warns against drinking from several creeks in the Canyon exhibiting elevated uranium levels in the wake of past uranium mining.

Proposed uranium development has provoked a rash of litigation, public protests and statements of opposition from scientists, city officials, county officials, former Governor Janet Napolitano, the Navajo, Kaibab Piute, Hopi and Havasupai tribes, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Statewide polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies shows overwhelming public support for withdrawing from mineral entry the lands near Grand Canyon; Arizonans support protecting the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining by a two-to-one margin.

Congressman Raúl Grijalva has introduced H.R.644, the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2009, to permanently protect the same 1 million acres around Grand Canyon from new uranium claims and exploratory drilling. Despite overwhelming support for enacting uranium protections among his constituents, Senator McCain has to date opposed that legislation and other efforts to protect Grand Canyon watersheds from uranium mining.

“The Grand Canyon deserves better than an adjacent radioactive industrial zone,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time for Senator McCain to join his constituents and work to protect Grand Canyon for future generations.” McKinnon will be available for press interviews at today’s event, which is scheduled as follows:

Who:  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and senators John McCain and Mark Udall
What: Press Availability at Grand Canyon National Park
When:  4:30 p.m.. PDT, Friday, August 21, 2009
Where: South Rim, near Hopi House, Grand Canyon National Park

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