Native Americans back national monument designation for 1.7 million acres of public lands around the Grand Canyon

A legal road on the Kaibab National Forest leads to this lookout spot on the rim of the Grand Canyon near the Saddle Mountain wilderness area. PHOTO COURTESY LEIGH WADDEN.
Grand Canyon view from the Saddle Mountain Wilderness. Summit Voice file photo.

Monument designation sought to prevent mining, preserve Native American heritage

Staff Report

Native Americans in northern Arizona are supporting far-reaching protection for culturally and environmentally important lands around the Grand Canyon.

The Navajo Nation and the Hopi, Havasupai, and Hualapai tribes have joined forces to back a bill by Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) that would protect more than a million acres near the canyon.

Because it is unlikely the bill will move through Congress in time, Grijalva plans to also ask President Obama to establish the proposed monument administratively — a move that would permanently protect 1.7 million acres and a network of above- and below-ground streams from new uranium mining.

In a region where communities are already living with the toxic legacy of uranium mining, the health effects, water contamination and expensive clean up that would result from new mining cannot be ignored.

“The existing temporary ban on new uranium mines is supported by hundreds of thousands of Americans, including Native American tribes throughout Arizona,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “We expect the national monument proposal to have even greater support as it will provide permanent protection for lands around Grand Canyon while allowing for continued enjoyment of these important public lands. Sierra Club appreciates the efforts of Congressman Grijalva and the tribal leaders to protect the greater Grand Canyon.”

“We’re proud to support tribal communities and Congressman Grijalva to permanently protect the public lands of Grand Canyon’s vital watershed,” said Katie Davis, public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The greater Grand Canyon region is a hotspot of biological and cultural diversity that demands recognition and protection as a national monument — an action the president should not hesitate to take if Congress fails to act.”

The greater Grand Canyon area is home to California condors, mountain lions and a host of other wildlife — including some found nowhere else in the world. The proposed national monument would create a safe passageway for mule deer and other wildlife from Grand Canyon National Park to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

“Grand Canyon Trust supports Congressman Grijalva’s proposal to permanently protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining,” said Ethan Aumack, conservation director with the Grand Canyon Trust. “We also support protection of the rich cultural and natural heritage of the Grand Canyon affiliated tribes who helped develop this legislation.”

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