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For Immediate Release, April 23, 2012

Contacts:  Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice (303) 996-9622,
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 890-7515
David Nimkin, National Parks Conservation Association, (801) 518-1270

Judge Awards Tribe, Conservation Groups Right to Defend Grand Canyon in Court Case

Coalition Will Defend Interior Department Mining Ban That Protects Water, Wildlife, Sacred Lands

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz.Judge Frederick Martone of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona issued an order Friday that allows the Havasupai tribe and four conservation groups to defend the U.S. Department of the Interior’s January 2012 decision to ban new uranium mining claims for 20 years across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.

Earthjustice and the Western Mining Action Project, both public-interest law firms, will represent the Havasupai tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association to defeat a lawsuit filed in November by uranium prospector Gregory Yount.

“Friday’s decision means we’ll have a seat in the courtroom to protect the Grand Canyon region’s life-giving waters and deer, elk, condors and other wildlife, as well as the tremendous cultural resources so important to the Havasupai tribe,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney at Earthjustice who is representing the coalition.

Uranium pollution already plagues the Grand Canyon and surrounding area; proposals for new mining have prompted protests, litigation and proposed legislation. Because dozens of new mines threaten to industrialize iconic and sacred natural areas, destroy wildlife habitat and pollute or deplete aquifers, scientists, tribal and local governments, and businesses have all voiced support for the new protections enacted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“Secretary Salazar was right to protect Grand Canyon from more uranium mining pollution,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that won intervention. “That's a decision we'll gladly defend in court.”

“The defense and protection of Grand Canyon and its watershed is a top priority for the Sierra Club,” said Sandy Bahr, director for Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter, another intervener. “Uranium mining and this landscape are not compatible, as has been recognized by conservationists, Native American tribes, and now the government.  We need to defend this important decision.”

“Secretary Salazar's decision is based on solid scientific evidence that uranium mining poses certain threats to watersheds, wildlife and other values unique to Grand Canyon’s ecosystems,” said Grand Canyon Trust Program Director Roger Clark. “It is a prudent precautionary measure to prevent irreversible harm to our national treasure.”

“We strongly support the decision of Secretary Salazar and the Department of the Interior in removal of the very clear threat of uranium mining within the Grand Canyon watershed,” said David Nimkin, senior regional director of National Parks Conservation Association. “It is inconceivable that one of America’s most cherished landscapes is placed at risk from this potential mining threat, and we are prepared to support the defense of the Interior Department’s decision.”

Mining and uranium interests have filed three other lawsuits hoping to eliminate the Interior Department’s environmental protection measures in federal court in Arizona. The coalition intends to move to intervene to defend the mineral withdrawal in those cases in the coming weeks.

A copy of the court order is available at

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