WASHTINGTON, D.C. – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his decision to ban future uranium mining on the Arizona Strip on Monday.
The decision comes after two years of evaluation concerning the possible threat that uranium mining may have on the Grand Canyon and its accompanying watershed. As of Monday, over one million acres of the Arizona Strip has been withdrawn to public use, mining in particular, for the next 20 years. However, preexisting mining operations will be allowed to continue.
According to a press release from the US Department of the Interior, Salazar’s decision will provide adequate time for monitoring to inform future land use decisions involving the Arizona Strip, while also allowing currently approved mining operations to continue as well as new operations on valid existing mining claims.
Salazar’s proposal to close a part of the Arizona Strip to public use was the subject of a hearing involving southern Utah and northern Arizona counties that was held in St. George in September 2011.
“A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape,” Salazar said.
Salazar added that people from across the globe come to visit the Grand Canyon. Native American tribes see the canyon as a scared site, and millions of people rely on the water from the Colorado River Basin for numerous agricultural, environmental and industrial applications.
“We have been entrusted to care for and protect our precious environmental and cultural resources, and we have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations,” Salazar said.
The Interior Secretary’s decision was praised by Jonathan Jarvis, the national park service director.
“The decision made today by the Secretary will help ensure continued protection of the Grand Canyon watershed and World Heritage designated Grand Canyon National Park,” Jarvis said. “As stewards of our national parks, it is incumbent on all of us to continue to preserve our treasured landscapes, today and for future generations.”
Reaction from western lawmakers
However, certain senators and representatives in Washington do not share Jarvis’ opinion of Salazar’s announcement.
“This administration has proven incapable of using even the slightest bit of common sense when it comes to lands policy,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said. “…For energy production that has long been safe and responsible, the announcement represents a needless overreaction to a fictitious problem.”
Sen. John McCain of Arizona also voiced his disappointment at Salazar’s decision.
“The Obama Administration’s ban on uranium mining is a devastating blow to job creation in northern Arizona, particularly in Mohave County,” McCain said.
He added: “This decision is fueled by an emotional public relations campaign pitting the public’s love for the Grand Canyon against a modern form of low-impact mining that occurs many miles from the Canyon walls and in no way impacts drinking water quality of the Colorado River…the Obama Administration’s decision will cost Arizonans more high paying jobs under the false pretense of ‘protecting’ one of our national treasures, the Grand Canyon.”
For Sen. Orrin Hatch, the announcement is another example of how much the current administration and Interior Department “just doesn’t get it.”
“Mining this land poses no environmental threat and is expected to create thousands of jobs, but the administration continues to pander to extremist environmentalists who oppose one of the cleanest sources of energy we have,” Hatch said. “I wish I could say today’s announcement comes as a surprise but sadly it’s just another sign that the Obama Administration is one of the most anti-American energy presidencies in history.”
Additional statements against Salazar’s decision were made by Representative Rob Bishop of Utah, Representatives Ben Quayle, Jeff Frake and David Schweikert of Arizona, and Senator John Brasso of Wyoming in a joint press release.
Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.