New Lobo ‘Recovery’ Plan Puts Politics Before Science Risks Recovery of Highly Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves
Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter • Western Watershed Project • Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery • Grand Canyon Wildlands • Wolf Conservation Center • Lobos of the Southwest • Southwest Environmental Center •
For immediate release June 29, 2017
Tucson, Ariz. – Despite the recommendations of scientists, the draft recovery plan for the lobo or Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unnaturally limits the population size and range of this subspecies in the Southwest. Exclusion of millions of acres of suitable habitat near Grand Canyon, north of the current recovery area, and an artificial cap on population size will limit real recovery of this species to a state-managed token animal instead of allowing it to fulfill its important role in maintaining ecosystem health.
“The proposed downlisting and delisting criteria specified in the plan show that the Fish and Wildlife Service is anxious to get the management of these animals to state agencies, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which is overseen by a decidedly anti-wolf commission that has demonstrated strong hostility to recovery of Mexican wolves,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director for Western Watershed Project. “It’s less about recovery than it is an abdication of its own duties to ensure viable populations of wolves in the Southwest and to secure the future of this species.”
Instead of moving forward with a draft plan based on science-based recommendations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed the recovery planning process to be delayed and subverted due to political pressures from Arizona and the other three states important to Mexican wolf recovery. These pressures have focused on keeping wolves south of Interstate 40 and limited in population size to a number far below scientific recommendations.
“It is critical that some of the best habitat in Arizona for wolves – the Grand Canyon region – be part of this recovery effort,” said Emily Renn, Executive Director of Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. “Capping the population and limiting the region for recovery so severely is not a recipe for a recovered Mexican wolf population.”
The population cap would compromise the scientific standards of the Endangered Species Act and leave recovery of a critically endangered species in the hands of the states. New Mexico has undermined meaningful recovery by blocking releases of wolves to the wild, and Arizona has recently moved to wield more control over the program, seemingly inspired by New Mexico’s actions. Last time Arizona ran the program, between 2003 and 2009, the wolf population in the wild actually declined.
“The agency claims that this plan will ensure resiliency, redundancy, and representation, but it is willing to go as low as 150 wolves in the U.S. for the purposes of downlisting – that is far from recovered and a dangerously low number,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Downlisting the species to ‘threatened’ will likely trigger even fewer protections for these animals.”
“The captive-breeding program that we operate aims to release wolves into their ancestral homes in the wild, but the success of our efforts requires a legitimate, science-based recovery blueprint that will ensure the survival of these iconic and imperiled wolves. This is not what the Fish and Wildlife Service delivered,” said Maggie Howell, Director of the Wolf Conservation Center.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service convened a recovery planning team in 2010 that included a Science and Planning Subgroup made up of some of the top wolf experts in the country. The Science and Planning Subgroup developed draft recommendations for recovery of the Mexican gray wolf based on the best available science, which included the following:
- In addition to the current wild population of Mexican gray wolves in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona, two new core populations must be established in the Grand Canyon region in northern Arizona and southern Utah and in the Southern Rockies region in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, areas containing the most suitable habitat for Mexican gray wolves.
- Natural dispersal must be possible between the three core populations through habitat connectivity.
- Each of the three populations must have a minimum of 200 wolves and, together, must have, at the very least, 750 wolves.
- There must be a decrease in human caused mortality.
- Genetic rescue of the wild population must be addressed.
An abundance of research demonstrates the important role that wolves can play in restoring health and balance to the ecosystems they inhabit. Wolf-related tourism brings an estimated $35 million in annual tourist revenue to the Greater Yellowstone region. Similar economic and ecological benefits are very likely in Arizona once wolves are fully restored to the landscape.
In a 2013 poll of registered voters, 87 percent of Arizonans agreed that “wolves are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage,” and 83 percent agreed that “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction.”
The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to prevent extinction and to bring species back to healthy population levels. This law – passed nearly unanimously, signed by a Republican president, and supported by the majority of Americans and Arizonans – has a proven record of preventing more than 99 percent of species extinctions. Federal authority to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats is clearly established. Although cooperative programs exist among states and the federal government, state conservation programs must be at least as protective of a species as the Endangered Species Act. Efforts to recover endangered species, including Mexican gray wolves, must be based on the best available science, not politics.
There were only 113 Mexican gray wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at last official count, with just a small population now in Mexico. The widespread misinformation that led to the near complete extinction of these wolves is disproven by our current understanding of the important role wolves play in healthy functioning ecosystems – and by overwhelming public support for recovery of the world’s rarest gray wolf subspecies.
In the Phoenix New Times story, Canyon Mine Faces Accusations of Environmental Racism by Navajos, Sierra Club (March 21, 2017), the vice president for marketing and corporate development at Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc., who owns Canyon Mine, had a few interesting things to say. Unfortunately, he put forward no evidence behind his statements, and we have photos and documents to back up ours.
1.) Water being trucked from Canyon Mine has elevated levels of uranium, and possibly other toxic chemicals too. The Phoenix New Times article reported:
…a spokesman for Energy Fuels previously told the Arizona Daily Sun that the water being trucked through the Navajo Nation has three times the amount of dissolved uranium than is considered “safe” to drink. And in a November report to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the company noted that the water contains 30 times the recommended level of arsenic.
But now Curtis Moore, vice president for marketing and corporate development at Energy Fuels, says that the water is not contaminated. “The excess water we are managing is relatively clean, and contains only trace amounts of natural uranium,” he wrote in an e-mailed response.
“In fact, the water we are trucking offsite either meets – or comes very close to meeting – EPA drinking water standards for dissolved uranium.”
FACT: Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc. told the Arizona Daily Sun that the water contained 90 micrograms per liter, three times the drinking water “standard” of 30 micrograms per liter set by the EPA. This level of uranium contamination was confirmed in a conversation between Sierra Club and the Kaibab National Forest on March 17, 2017. This level is lower than the amount that Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc. reported to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in its “General Aquifer Protection Permit Annual Report for 2016”, when they reported 130 micrograms per liter of uranium (over four times the drinking water standard) and 292 micrograms per liter of arsenic (over 29 times the drinking water standard for arsenic) in water taken from the shaft of Canyon Mine on November 9, 2016.
2.) Contaminated water is being sprayed in the air – and radioactive mist is drifting into the Kaibab National Forest.
Making matters even worse, the Sierra Club says, Energy Fuels is now spraying some of the water from the mine into the air in an attempt to get it to evaporate. Photos captured by Sierra Club and Haul No! volunteers appear to show radioactive mist drifting into the Kaibab National Forest, which surrounds the mine…
Curtis Moore of Energy Fuels disputed the environmental group’s claims.
“We are not blowing water into the forest, as the Sierra Club claims,” he wrote in his e-mailed response.
“We have employed some commonly utilized enhanced evaporation machines that creates a mist over the pond to speed evaporation rates, which we shutdown during high-wind days to avoid the potential of the mist of this relatively clean water from crossing our fence-line.”
FACT: Here’s a picture taken at Canyon Mine on March 12, 2017, outside the perimeter fence of Canyon Mine, on a day when the average wind speed was only 4mph at the nearby Grand Canyon Airport, with gusts of 20 to 30 mph.
Aaaaaand, here’s another one:
Sure looks to me like the toxic mist is hitting the forest…
3.) Trucks moving uranium-laced water through the Navajo and Ute Nations are mislabelled or poorly marked.
FACT: This photo shows a truck arriving at Canyon Mine’s front gate to pick up a load of water headed for the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, Utah. The placard says “1268” which is a marking indicating the truck is hauling petroleum products. Nothing indicates the presence of uranium in the truck’s contents.
Facts. Nothing but facts here.
Please let us know what you think.
Mine Operator Energy Fuels Violates Plan of Operations to Clear Out Excess Water; Drilling Continues Despite Expired Environmental Permits
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 20, 2017
Alicyn Gitlin, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, (520) 491-9528, (928) 774-6514
Leona Morgan, Haul No!, (505) 879-8547
TUSAYAN, Ariz. – The controversial Canyon Mine, located just six miles from Grand Canyon’s South Rim, is filling with surplus water after a wet winter. In an effort to dispose of the water from the bottom of the mine shaft, mine owner Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. is trucking the contaminated water to the White Mesa Mill uranium processing facility near Blanding, Utah and spraying it, into the air and on the adjacent Kaibab National Forest, in an attempt to evaporate it. The Plan of Operations requires that all excess water be retained in holding ponds and be treated on-site.
Simultaneously, Energy Fuels has allowed state environmental permits intended to help protect groundwater to expire.
Communities on the Navajo Nation along the haul route from Canyon Mine to the White Mesa Mill were not formally notified of hazardous materials being transported. The route traverses 300 miles, with approximately 180 miles going through Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute community south of the Mill. The Navajo Nation has a law that restricts transport of radioactive materials, including uranium ore, “over, under or across Navajo Indian Country”; however, Navajo does not have jurisdiction over the state roads of the haul route. Trucks are marked “non-potable water” and at least one truck observed had a placard misidentifying the contents as petroleum products.
Indigenous peoples are not just concerned about the transport, but also Red Butte, a designated Traditional Cultural Property and sacred site, near the mine, as well as risks to precious water resources, possibility of accidents, lack of emergency response, and impacts to human health, plants, and wildlife.
“As Navajo Nation, we have dealt with uranium since the cold war and still dealing with mines left behind by irresponsible people….the last thing we need is for another mine transferring it though our communities….No Haul!” said Milton Tso, Cameron Chapter President.
The U.S. Forest Service did not require Energy Fuels to update its 1986 Plan of Operations to reflect any new information or technology when it began drilling after nearly 30 years on “standby,” where the mine sat and was nonoperational. Now, before the mine has even removed any uranium ore, they seem to be out of compliance with their Plan.
Furthermore, Energy Fuels allowed its permits for the on-site storage of physical material that has been removed from the mineshaft to expire in August 2016. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has not received any paperwork from the company for the renewal of the permits.
“This is unacceptable and just confirms many of our concerns about this mine. The mining industry has been saying that mining is cleaner and safer than it used to be, but now the shaft of the mine has been flooded and they had to develop a contingency plan before they’ve even started removing ore. We should not trust this mine or this mining company so close to one of the world’s natural wonders. They’re putting the waters of Grand Canyon at risk,” said Sierra Club’s Alicyn Gitlin.
Energy Fuels has drilled the shaft to approximately 1,400 feet and has intercepted high-grade uranium ore, although extraction has not yet begun. The water being trucked and sprayed into the air from the mine’s holding pond reportedly contains three times the safe limit of dissolved uranium for drinking water. But it is not known how much of that water has made its way off the mine site. Given the complex hydrology of Grand Canyon, it is also unknown if contaminated water is infiltrating from the unfinished mine shaft into the region’s groundwater, which feeds seeps and springs in Grand Canyon.
“This is another prime example of environmental racism, to allow unregulated transport of radioactive liquids in unmarked trucks through communities and without notifying the public or any of the surrounding indigenous nations. We have a right to know, at the very least, so proper preparations and emergency response are in place in case of a spill or accident,” said Leona Morgan with Haul No!, an indigenous-led initiative concerned about uranium transport.
In 2012 the Obama administration issued a “mineral withdrawal” prohibiting new mining claims and the development of claims lacking valid existing rights across 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Despite public protests and legal challenges from local American Indian tribes and conservation groups, federal agencies have allowed three uranium mines predating the withdrawal to resume operations.
One of these mines, Canyon Mine, was originally approved in 1986, but mine owners ceased development in 1992 when the price of uranium dropped. In 2010, Red Butte near Canyon Mine was designated a Traditional Cultural Property. In 2012, the Kaibab National Forest decided Canyon Mine could restart development without updating its Environmental Impact Statement or Plan of Operations. The Havasupai Tribe is fighting the Forest Service’s decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to force the Forest Service to consider new information and technology, and to require consultation with the tribe under the National Historic Preservation Act.
In a letter dated March 17, 2008, regarding “Notice of ADEQ Decision to Deny a Type 3.04 General Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) to Denison Mines (USA) Corp, Canyon Mine Facility,” the ADEQ wrote “. . . it has been determined that your facility does not meet the design, construction and installation requirements for a Type 3.04 General Permit pursuant to A.A.C. R18-9-D304(A) and A.A.C. R18-9-D304(C).” In an article in the Arizona Daily Sun, ADEQ Director Steve Owens said, “The burden is on them to prove to us that there will not be an impact on groundwater.” Yet, in a complete about face, in 2009 a general Aquifer Protection Permit was granted for Canyon Mine.
When Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. purchased Canyon Mine, it transferred the Type 3.04 General Aquifer Protection Permit for a non-stormwater impoundment, and two Type 2.02 General Aquifer Protection Permits, which allow intermediate ore stockpiles, into its name. The Type 3.04 permit expires August 31, 2019, and the Type 2.02 permits expired August 30, 2016. ADEQ does not have any new paperwork in process or on file to renew the Type 2.02 permits, yet Canyon Mine continues to develop its mine shaft and to stockpile the overburden onsite.
In 2010 water samples summarized by the USGS showed that 15 springs and five wells contained dissolved uranium concentrations in excess of the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for safe drinking water. The USGS report concluded that these contaminated sites “are related to mining processes.” In 2013 the National Park Service said that the “regional aquifer groundwater wells at the Canyon, Pinenut, and Hermit mines as well as the sumps at the base of Pigeon and Hermit mines have all exhibited dissolved uranium concentrations in excess of drinking water standards (30 micrograms per liter), with sump concentrations at Hermit Mine exceeding 36,000 micrograms per liter.”
According to Canyon Mine’s 1984 Plan of Operations, “All surface drainage from the yard will flow into the pond or ponds. In addition, if excessive water is encountered in the course of mining it will be stored and treated in this area prior to discharge…All water encountered during mining which cannot be utilized in connection with mining will be discharged into these holding ponds and held until it evaporates or treated until it meets the discharge standards applicable under the NPDES permit.”
The 1986 Final Environmental Impact Statement for Canyon Mine requires, “Holding pond(s) in the mine yard must be adequate to receive local runoff from a 100-year thunderstorm event, plus normal annual runoff and water that may be pumped from the mine. The volume of water in the pond(s) must be maintained at a level that will allow a reserve pond capacity to accommodate unforeseen and normally expected runoff events.” The holding pond clearly was not able to handle water pumped from the mine this year.
 Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Transfer Notice of Recording for a Type 2.02 General Aquifer Protection Permit. LTF # 56663. Dated August 21, 2012;
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Transfer Notice of Recording for a Type 2.02 General Aquifer Protection Permit. LTF # 56664. Dated August 21, 2012.
 Energy Fuels. 2016. More high-grade uranium intercepts at Energy Fuels’ Canyon Mine continue to expand the mineralized zone. Available at: http://www.energyfuels.com/news-pr/high-grade-uranium-intercepts-energy-fuels-canyon-mine-continue-expand-mineralized-zone/, accessed 3/12/17.
 Cowan, Emery. Uranium mine deals with excess water. Arizona Daily Sun. Available at: http://azdailysun.com/news/local/uranium-mine-deals-with-excess-water/article_1f35d10b-3802-5083-a5bd-1c3f255363fc.html, accessed 3/16/17.
 Uranium mine permits denied, Arizona Daily Sun, May 14, 2008.
 Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Discharge Authorization Type 3.04 General Aquifer Protection Permit. LTF # 60849. Issued to Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. based on Renewal Form dated 7/16/2014;
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Transfer Notice of Recording for a Type 2.02 General Aquifer Protection Permit. LTF # 56663. Dated August 21, 2012;
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Transfer Notice of Recording for a Type 2.02 General Aquifer Protection Permit. LTF # 56664. Dated August 21, 2012.
 pp. 14, 19 in: Energy Fuels Nuclear, Inc. 1984. Plan of Operations Notice of Intent. Canyon Mine. Available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd475369.pdf, accessed 3/12/17.
 p. 2.33 in: USDA. 1986. Final Environmental Impact Statement Canyon Uranium Mine. Available at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5346657.pdf, accessed 3/12/17.
Rumble on the Mountain 3 hits Flagstaff this weekend
The face off at Standing Rock echoes the clash of paradigm that has existed between Native American people and the greater culture for centuries. That clash is keenly felt in the Southwest. This year’s Rumble on the Mountain aims to help people of all backgrounds gain a better understanding of the indigenous people of the Grand Canyon region.
Now in its third year, Rumble on the Mountain is an annual concert to raise awareness of issues related to the lands and indigenous peoples of the Colorado Plateau. The concert is part education, part entertainment (‘edu-tainment’), blending music and dance performances with the voices of tribal representatives, academics, and non-profit organizations. This year’s show is entitled, “Our Story”, and will present an indigenous history of the Colorado Plateau. Speakers and performers include Dine artist, Shonto Begay, former Hopi Chairman, Vernon Masayesva, The Hopi Tsootro Dance Group, World Champion Hoop Dancer, Derrick Davis, Dine singer/activists Radmilla Cody and Klee Benally, Zuni reggae band, I.Conscious, and Flagstaff’s own, Tha Yoties.
Organizer Ed Kabotie says, “An understanding of the people and issues of the Colorado Plateau will profoundly deepen our understanding of the people and issues of the world. It is vital to the well being of the land, its people, and the collective conscience of the nation that our stories be told.”
Students, families, educators, and interested persons of all ages are invited to experience ‘Native Voices from the Colorado Plateau’ –a history from ages past to present. Rumble on the Mountain happens Saturday, January 28th, 2017, 3:30pm-10:30pm at the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff, AZ. $12 Adults; Students $7; Children 12 & under free with adult. Tickets available at Rainbows End in Flagstaff & Cottonwood, The Legacy Inn & Suites in Tuba City, The Hopi Cultural Center, and online at www.orpheumflagstaff.com. For more information contact: Ed Kabotie (505) 274-6822 or Alicyn Gitlin (928) 774-6514
Find the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/602699636584685
And follow the issues by joining the Rumble on the Mountain community: https://www.facebook.com/RumbleOnTheMountainAZ/?fref=ts
Read more in the Flag Live article here.
3:30-4:00 – Doors Open – Flute Songs with Fredrick Andrews
4:00 – 4:25 – Opening Prayer & Comments: KUYI Hopi Public Radio DJs, Artist Shonto Begay & Vernon Masayesva of Black Mesa Trust
4:25 – 4:40 – Hopi Tsootro Dance Group
4:40 – 5:20 – Early History of the Plateau – Ed Kabotie
5:20 – 5:40 – Black Mesa Films: Black Mesa Trust & Black-Mesa Water-Coalition
5:40 – 6:00 – Hopi Tsootro Dance Group & Hopi & Tewa Community Movement
6:00 – 6:15 – Uranium Mining Overview with Grand Canyon Trust & Carletta Tilousi of the Havasupai Tribe
6:20 – 7:00 – Uranium on the Navajo Nation – Klee Benally (Presentation & Music)
7:00 – 7:20 – Songs of Healing: World Champion Hoop Dancer, Derrick Davis & Hopi Singer Ryon Polequaptewa
7:30 – 7:50 — Initiatives on the Plateau – Sierra Club Grand Canyon Protection Campaign, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, Wildlands Network & Springs Stewardship Institute
7:55 – 8:30 – Cycles of Violence – Radmilla Cody (Presention & Music)
8:40 – 9:20 – I. CONSCIOUS (Zuni Reggae)
9:20 – 9:40 – The Heart of the Plateau – Save the Confluence
9:40 – 10:30 – Tha ‘Yoties (IrieZona Reggae Rock)
Disappointing News – No Presidential Proclamation for Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument
We are extremely sad to learn that President Obama has decided not to designate Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.
Grand Canyon is under threat, and we all must fight harder in coming years than we’ve ever fought before. Her plateaus will lie vulnerable for years to come.
Large core habitats and intact wildlife corridors could be diced to pieces by mining and logging roads, pipelines, and power lines.
Sparkling night skies risk being obscured behind the lights of mining operations.
Ancient forests could be turned into wood products for export.
Life-giving springs could carry contamination – or they could be depleted altogether.
Cultural sites are unprotected from mines and irresponsible off-road recreation.
We will need every voice, every photo, every song, every opinion piece, every rally, every signature to call out in defense of Grand Canyon!
There are many of you to thank for supporting this effort, but above all, we want to thank Representative Raúl Grijalva for his commitment to defending Grand Canyon, and his reintroduction of the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act in Congress. We will continue to recruit support for this bill and we will continue to #ProtectGrandCanyon. Onward!
See Representative Grijalva’s press release, which includes quotes from tribal leaders and conservationists, here.
U.S. Court of Appeals to Hear Back-to-Back Cases on Uranium Mining Threats to the Grand Canyon Region, Thursday Dec. 15 in San Francisco
San Francisco — The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco will hear oral arguments Thursday, December 15 on two key cases involving uranium mining on public lands near Grand Canyon National Park.
In the first case, Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club challenge the United States Forest Service’s decision to allow Energy Fuels Resources to reopen the Canyon uranium mine, which was initially approved in the 1980s and had been closed since 1992. The federal agency permitted this “zombie” mine to reopen without analyzing the mine’s environmental impacts in light of changed circumstances in the intervening quarter-century.
The Canyon Mine is located on the Kaibab National Forest, a few miles south of Grand Canyon National Park, and is within a one million acre area that was withdrawn from mining in 2012 due to concerns about uranium mining’s environmental and cultural threats to the Grand Canyon watershed.
Richard Hughes of Rothstein Donatelli LLP will argue on behalf of the Havasupai Tribe; Neil Levine of Grand Canyon Trust will argue on behalf of conservation groups.
The second case, National Mining Association v. Jewell, involves mining and uranium industries’ challenges to the Interior Department’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.
The ban was requested in 2008 by Arizona’s governor, local governments, American Indian tribes, recreationists, and conservation groups concerned about a uranium mining boom’s impact on groundwater, cultural resources, and the iconic landscapes surrounding the Grand Canyon. It was issued by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona upheld the ban in two rulings, one in 2013 (decision here) and the other in 2014 (decision here), and the mining interests appealed.
The nonprofit law firm, Earthjustice, will represent the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks Conservation Association in defending the ban. Department of Justice attorneys will also defend the Interior Department’s decision.
What: Arguments in Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio and National Mining Association v. Jewell before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Where: Courtroom 4, Room 260
James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse
95 Seventh St.
San Francisco, Calif.
When: Approximately 9:30 a.m. PST, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016
# # # # #
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, September 30, 2016
FLAGSTAFF, AZ — Rep. Anne Kirkpatrick (AZ-1) today announced her support of the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, signing on as a co-sponsor to the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act. Kirkpatrick joins a long list of those speaking out for a monument designation, including more than 20 area Tribal Nations, more than 400 local businesses, and local and national leaders.
“I applaud Rep. Kirkpatrick for standing with many people in Arizona and throughout the country who want to safeguard these lands from new uranium mines,” said Celia Barotz, Vice-Mayor of Flagstaff.
The proposal enjoys strong support in the state, with 4 in 5 Arizonans supporting protecting the public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument– support reflected nationwide with 82% of people in favor of the proposal. Across the country more than half a million people have joined the call for action by President Obama.
“What’s good for the environment is also good for our economy. People travel from around the world to see an untouched Grand Canyon, not uranium mining operations,” said Ash Patel, president and CEO of Southwest Hospitality Management, LLC and past chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association. “Protecting Grand Canyon for future generations is dear to my heart. The step Rep. Kirkpatrick took today brings us one step closer to ensuring this natural beauty stays in its more rare form.”
THANK YOU, FLAGSTAFF!!
This year, we celebrated the beauty and culture of the River with 10 days of Colorado River Days Flagstaff, featuring 20 events! There was a whole lot of music and art, listening and looking, learning and taking action. This year’s events raised awareness for both locals and visitors, as volunteers turned out in force to promote the events on First Friday during Labor Day weekend, during the Tiny Boat Concert and historic boat display, Flipped Out Slideshow, Short Film Showcase, and Art Show. Together, we educated the public of ongoing threats to the River, and reasons to take these threats personally. The Community Collaborative Colorado River Art Show at The State Bar is ongoing through September and October, so get down there and see the talent of our neighbors and friends.
Between September 2-12, 2016, families and friends were brought together to participate in free hands on educational events, hikes and a birding walk. A listening session with area Tribal activists, a discussion of outdoor education on the Diné (Navajo) and Hopi Nations, and a presentation on Coal Mining at Black Mesa drove home the pressures that resource extraction and development are putting on Tribal Nations, while young kids need more opportunities for outdoor learning.
And did we mention the music? From the Tiny Boat Show to Ed Kabotie’s flute and guitar during the Native Voices on the Colorado River event, and from Tha’ Yoties’ Rumble on the Mountain CD release to the Confluence Journey show with Infamous Flapjack Affair, our ears were bathed in river music. This was definitely our most melodic River Days yet.
This year also featured a plethora of featured films. We are grateful to Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival for their “Celebration of the River” pre-event, with the inspirational Katie Lee reminding us to get off our butts and defend what we love. Threaded throughout the week were viewings of The World Beneath the Rims, The Closer You Get, the More You Find, I am Red, North Rim Notes, and River of Sorrows. The coffee discussion with the filmmaker and artists of The World Beneath the Rims left everyone feeling like they had experienced something special.
Two travelogues bookended the week as we learned about floating through Canyonlands with Tom Martin and through-hiking Grand Canyon with Chris Atwood and Rich Rudow. Kevin Fedarko delivered an inspiring lecture that got people off their feet and immediately beginning to organize to protect Grand Canyon from development, mining, and overflight threats.
In all these ways, we brought the community of Flagstaff together and we can’t wait to do it again next year! Together, about 40 organizations collaborated to reach about 1,000 people! We still continue to seek support for the movements, so if you haven’t already, please choose your favorite river cause and show your support today!
We would like to give a special thank you to all of the people that put effort into hosting and helping with the Colorado River Days events. If we haven’t thanked you in person yet, we look forward to following up in coming weeks to find out how we can do better next year.
Marcelle Viana, Sierra Club volunteer
Alicyn Gitlin, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter
Speak up at Uranium Mine Public Hearings
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is issuing new air quality permits to three uranium mines within 20 miles of Grand Canyon National Park. Two mines are preparing to open for the first time: Canyon Mine south of Grand Canyon and EZ Mine north of Grand Canyon. One mine is on “standby” and not currently producing ore: Arizona 1 Mine north of Grand Canyon. The Pinenut Mine, also north of Grand Canyon, is preparing for “reclamation” and is not being required to have an air quality permit.
ATTEND A PUBLIC HEARING:
Monday, August 29 6pm
Fredonia High School Gymnasium
221 E. Hortt St.
|Tuesday, August 30 1pm-3pm
Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites
|Tuesday, August 30 6 pm
Sinagua Middle School Auditorium Mini A
3950 E. Butler Ave.
SUBMIT A WRITTEN COMMENT:
Written comments are due August 30. More information and link to submit comments at https://www.azdeq.gov/PN/EnergyFuelsResources
Here are some talking points to use when preparing your comments. Choose points you feel confortable talking about, and personalize with your own reasons for opposing these mines. If you have questions or want help preparing for the hearing, contact Alicyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928) 774-6514.
- Deny these permits. These mines are all located in Grand Canyon’s watershed and threaten the water, soil, and air of the Grand Canyon ecoregion.
- It is ADEQ’s responsibility to protect the air and water resources of this state, and to enforce the Clean Air Act and protect the citizens from pollution.
- Uranium dust is most dangerous when ingested or inhaled. Once inside the human body, it can damage the lungs, kidneys, bones, or cause birth defects. Trucks will only be covered with tarps and can spread dust along roadways. They can also pick up contamination from the ground at the mine and shed it as they travel.
- Ore trucks should be completely sealed – not just covered with a secure tarp.
- 10-12 trucks per day will move through Valle, Williams, Flagstaff, Cameron, Tuba City, and much of the Navajo Nation on their way to a mill in Blanding, UT; then, empty trucks will return along the same path. Tell ADEQ how the risks associated with these mines affects your ability to enjoy your property and to feel safe on your community’s roadways and public lands. Tell them about your fear of inhaling dust or receiving a dose of radiation while sharing the roads with these vehicles. Make your testimony personal.
- Contamination was found around the closed and reclaimed Pigeon and Hermit mines north of Grand Canyon, and soils near roads were also contaminated. Roads near the 1979 Church Rock, NM uranium mining disaster showed contamination near haul roads. There must be dust sampling along all haul roads, and communities should be prepared with emergency response plans in case of an accident causing an ore spill.
- Uranium and arsenic have been consistently detected at elevated levels in the soils surrounding previously mined areas in northern Arizona.
- Red Butte, adjacent to Canyon Mine, is a Traditional Cultural Property that is significant to the Havasupai, Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and Hualapai tribes.
- The Plan of Operations for Canyon Mine is over 30 years old and should be revised before air permits for it are issued.
- The EZ Mine has had no federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, or National Historic Preservation Act. ADEQ should wait for these processes to be complete and before issuing an air permit.
- Require a permit for and monitoring of the Pinenut Mine (Permit #62876) until all radioactive material has been removed and no contamination or radiation can be detected for at least a year.
- The permittee, Energy Fuels, is responsible for monitoring dust and emissions, and self-reporting emissions that exceed legal limits. They will also self report deviations from permit requirements. An independent third party should be responsible for monitoring and reporting problems.
- The amount of water required to suppress dust will be large in comparison to the amount of groundwater available in the region. That groundwater is important to maintain vital seeps and springs that humans and wildlife depend on.
- Radon emissions (radon-222) limitations will be calculated as a function of the number of pounds of material processed, instead of having a hard limit on the amount of radon released. ADEQ should limit the total amount of radon that the mine is allowed to release per hour. Ore processing should not be allowed to occur at a rate that causes emissions to exceed the limit.
- Soil and radiation monitoring outside the fence will be 100 feet from the fence. Sampling should also occur closer to the fence to catch problems before they spread that far.
- Soil sampling will only happen once per year. It should happen at least quarterly. Gamma radiation will be monitored quarterly. Outside independent monitors should perform these activities.
- We know that soil contamination has occurred near other areas where ore and mined rock have been able to stand at uranium mines. ADEQ shouldn’t wait until contamination is found before ordering the mine to implement measures to protect the ore piles. As a condition of this permit, the mine should have to: construct wind barriers, storage silos, or a three-sided walled enclosures to protect ore piles; or, piles should be covered with tarp, plastic, or other material that is regularly checked for tears and maintained as necessary to prevent holes and abrasions.