Attacks on public lands continue
After more than a century of reckless mining that created a toxic legacy of pollution, the Obama administration finally started trying to prevent even more destruction by placing a few areas, including watersheds around the Grand Canyon, off-limits.
Even those modest restrictions are apparently too much for the mining industry and the politicians the industry has bought in Washington, D.C. Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop wants to reverse some of the mining bans enacted during the Obama era, says the Center for Biological Diversity, citing a letter from Bishop to Sec. Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Public lands at risk include 1 million acres in the greater Grand Canyon region. The mining withdrawal enacted there in 2012 protects water and tribal resources from uranium mining contamination. It also safeguards critical regional wildlife corridors and habitat for numerous native species, many of which exist nowhere else on Earth.
“This is a dangerous attempt to sell off our public lands and minerals to corporate polluters at pennies on the dollar,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Mining jeopardizes public health, wildlife and wild places. Bishop’s attack on public lands is a gift to mining companies, but he’s completely out of step with the rest of the country.”
“The Grand Canyon mining moratorium is a commonsense and necessary protection for one of the world’s most iconic landscapes,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Undoing this moratorium, completed after extensive review and public participation, would only endanger this one-of-a-kind geologic wonder and the indigenous communities that live within the Grand Canyon’s watershed.”
The region has struggled with the toxic legacies from previous uranium mining that has left pollution, health problems and unsustainable boom-and-bust economies. Nonpartisan polls show 80 percent of Arizona voters and 80 percent of Americans support having the temporary mining ban made permanent.
“We agree with Secretary of the Interior Zinke’s belief that ‘some places are too precious to mine,’” said Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark. “And Grand Canyon is one of those places.”
Also at risk are nearly 100,000 acres in Oregon’s Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, including wild and scenic rivers, fisheries, mountains and meadows. The halt in mining, to protect the region from nickel strip-mining companies, received broad public support from tribes, local communities, conservationists, sportsman and elected officials.
“Mining withdrawals were put in place at the urging of local communities who know too well the devastating effects these operations have on public health, wildlife and the environment,” said Katie Davis, western director of Wildlands Network. “No legitimate reason to overturn these withdrawals exists — neither the risks nor public sentiment have changed.”
In 2016 the Obama administration protected 30,000 acres of public land from mining just outside Yellowstone National Park. Earlier this year the U.S. Forest Service proposed a halt to mining across 230,000 acres of public land in Minnesota’s Rainy River watershed, which feeds clean water into the world-renowned Boundary Waters, Voyageurs National Park and Quetico Provincial Park.
Click here for a fact sheet on why the Grand Canyon mining ban protects water and tribal resources and the greater Grand Canyon ecosystem.