Author Archives: Protect Grand Canyon

House Hearing Attacks Grand Canyon Uranium Ban

20-year Moratorium, Upheld by 9th Circuit Court Today, Protects Tribes, Water, Wildlife, Tourism

Grand Canyon view from near the top of the New Hance Trail.

In the 9th Circuit decision, Judge Borzon referred to John Wesley Powell’s description of Grand Canyon, “the most sublime spectacle in nature.”

For Immediate Release, December 12, 2017

Contacts:

Don Watahomigie, Havasupai Chairman, (928) 448-2731htchair@havasupai-nsn.gov

Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9622 (w), (303) 641-3149 (c), tzukoski@earthjustice.org

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 890-7515, rclark@grandcanyontrust.org

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414 tmckinnon@biologicaldiversity.org

Kevin Dahl, National Parks Conservation Association, (520) 603-6430, kdahl@npca.org

 

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK— The Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups decried a House subcommittee hearing today where lawmakers considered lifting a 20-year ban on new uranium mining across 1 million acres of public lands near Grand Canyon National Park. The ban, instituted by the Department of the Interior in 2012, was upheld by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision earlier today. It prevents further soil and water pollution from uranium mining and gives researchers time to study its risks to the Grand Canyon’s aquifers and springs.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, chaired by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), provided a forum for the National Mining Association to attack the uranium-mining ban that is supported by tribes, regional businesses and the public. The hearing comes days after President Trump ordered more than 2 million acres slashed from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who spearheaded the attacks on the national monuments, has called for lifting the Grand Canyon uranium-mining ban. The Trump administration also recommended rolling back the ban in a November U.S. Forest Service report.

“The Northern Arizona Mineral Withdrawal must remain in place,” said Havasupai tribal Vice Chairman Edmond Tilousi. “Opening the doors to uranium mining before we understand how it will affect our waters gambles with the very survival of the Havasupai people. We have always been the protectors of the Grand Canyon, and have faced new threats with every generation. My heart hurts knowing that these companies will stop at nothing to make a profit for themselves today, with complete disregard for the consequences for those of us left to live with their mess. These profiteers do not care if they destroy our waters. They do not care if the waste they make today poisons or kills our tribal members as it seeps into our springs. The 20-year ban and the studies it mandates are the only things protecting us. They need to continue until completion.”

The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and National Parks Conservation Association have for years worked to protect the Grand Canyon region from uranium-mining impacts. They’ve intervened on the side of the government to defend against a uranium-industry lawsuit challenging the 2012 withdrawal. A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision today upheld that ban, calling it a “cautious approach” and “risk-averse” to potentially permanent damage from uranium mining.

“The Department of the Interior’s decision to enact these critical protections was met with resounding support from a diverse array of stakeholders nationwide,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney with Earthjustice. “Given the potential for irreversible uranium contamination to Grand Canyon’s aquifers and springs, and the direct threat this poses to a critical source of life and identity of the Havasupai Tribe, it made perfect sense in 2012, and it makes perfect sense now.”

In 2007 more than 10,000 uranium-mining claims were staked on public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon, raising concern among tribes, businesses and local governments. The ban followed an exhaustive environmental impact statement assessing uranium-mining risks. According to Interior’s study, new uranium mining could harm springs, wells and aquifers, including increasing levels of uranium beyond federal drinking-water standards, severely depleting aquifers, endangering public health and wildlife, and compromising the values of the tribes who consider the springs sacred.

Interior’s study showed that without a mining ban, 26 new uranium mines and 700 uranium exploration projects would be developed, resulting in more than 1,300 acres of surface disturbance and the consumption of 970 acre-feet of water. More than 500 abandoned uranium mines still pollute land and water on the Navajo Nation, which has banned uranium mining. Water in Horn Creek, in Grand Canyon National Park, exceeds federal uranium standards owing to pollution from the abandoned Orphan mine on the canyon’s south rim.

“Multinational uranium companies export processed uranium mined from our nation’s public lands,” said Roger Clark with the Grand Canyon Trust. “We are alarmed that this administration favors the interests of foreign investors at the risk of poisoning places like the Grand Canyon, while potentially adding to the more than $1 billion debt that U.S. taxpayers must pay for cleaning up the mess from our region’s last uranium boom.”

“There is every reason to keep this mining ban in place and no good reason to reverse it,” said Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter director. “In fact, public lands around Grand Canyon should be permanently protected from uranium mining and other destructive measures that threaten waters, wildlife, and tribal resources. These public lands are significant in their own right, plus protecting them helps to protect the watershed for Grand Canyon.”

The Grand Canyon is the most spectacular gorge in the world and a biodiversity hotspot that anchors the tourism economy of the Four Corners region. The canyon area is home to indigenous people, including the Havasupai, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2016 the greater Grand Canyon region attracted a record 6 million tourists and recreationists, and Grand Canyon National Park tourism alone contributed $904 million to local economies and supported nearly 9,800 jobs.

“We must uphold the current, commonsense plan to protect Grand Canyon National Park and vital tribal water sources,” said Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “The purpose of the moratorium is to stop any risk to the limited underground water that feeds Grand Canyon’s important seeps, springs, and side creeks — and the entire water supply of the Havasupai people. Let’s stick with this prudent effort until we can be absolutely sure mining won’t pollute the aquifer.”

“Any effort to lift this crucial ban will meet fierce opposition,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s every reason to believe uranium mining will permanently damage Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers and springs. That’s an unacceptable risk, and it’s immoral of Congress and Trump to even consider it.”

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Appeals Court Upholds Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Ban

Havasupai Tribe, Conservation Coalition Celebrate Key Win for Water, Wildlife, Sacred Lands

Grand Canyon

In the 9th Circuit decision, Judge Borzon referred to John Wesley Powell’s description of Grand Canyon, “the most sublime spectacle in nature.”

For Immediate Release, December 12, 2017

Contacts:

Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice (303) 996-9622 (w), (303) 641-3149 (c), tzukoski@earthjustice.org

Don Watahomigie, Havasupai Chairman, (928) 448-2731, htchair@havasupai-nsn.gov

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter (602) 999-5790, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 890-7515, rclark@grandcanyontrust.org

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414 tmckinnon@biologicaldiversity.org

Kevin Dahl, National Parks Conservation Association, (520) 603-6430, kdahl@npca.org

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK— The Havasupai Tribe and a coalition of conservation groups praised today’s decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Department of the Interior’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon.

The court ruled that the ban, adopted in 2012, complies with the Constitution and federal environmental laws, and that the protected area was not too large, as plaintiff mining companies had argued. The ban protects the aquifers and streams that feed the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon from toxic uranium-mining waste pollution and water depletion.

The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and National Parks Conservation Association intervened in the case in 2013. The groups and the Department of Justice won a 2014 decision by U.S. District Court in Arizona, which upheld Interior’s 2012 uranium mining withdrawal. Mining companies appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit.

Unfortunately the court also rejected a challenge to the Canyon Mine, a uranium mine located on the Kaibab National Forest six miles south of Grand Canyon National Park. The court’s decision allows Energy Fuels Inc. to mine without initiating or completing formal tribal consultations and without updating an obsolete federal environmental review dating to 1986.

“The Havasupai people have been here since time immemorial. This place is who we are,” said Don Watahomigie, the Havasupai Tribal Chairman. “The Creator made us protectors of the Grand Canyon. The Havasupai Tribe is gratified to know that the court has recognized the validity of the mineral withdrawal and what we have always known — that this place, these waters and our people deserve protection. The lives of our children and the purity of our waters are not to be gambled with and are not for sale.”

“This is a great day for the Grand Canyon, for the Havasupai people who rely on its sacred waters, for the people who love this wonder of the natural world, and for the wildlife that call it home,” said Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice.

In January 2012 then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the 20-year ban that prohibits new mining claims and mine development on existing claims without valid permits. The mining industry claimed that the Interior Department’s exhaustive, 700-page evaluation of environmental impacts was inadequate. Interior’s study of the mining ban showed that without a withdrawal in place, 26 new uranium mines and 700 uranium exploration projects could be developed, resulting in more than 1,300 acres of surface disturbance and the consumption of 970 acre feet of water.

Under the 20-year ban, existing mine operations are projected to have about one-tenth of the surface impacts and one-third the water usage. According to Interior’s study, new uranium mining could have major impacts on springs, wells and aquifers, including increased levels of uranium beyond the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standards and severely depleted groundwater, endangering public health and wildlife, and compromising the values of the tribes who consider the springs sacred.

“This decision rewards years of cooperation toward protecting the water, air, and people that mining near the Grand Canyon puts at risk,” said Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark. “History has shown us how uranium mining can go wrong on the Colorado Plateau, we’re glad for more time to make sure the same legacy isn’t also bestowed upon the Grand Canyon.”

Uranium pollution already plagues the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas. Proposals for new mining have prompted protests, litigation, and legislation to make the ban permanent. Dozens of new mines threaten to industrialize iconic and sacred natural areas, destroy wildlife habitat, and pollute and deplete aquifers. Scientists, tribal and local governments, and businesses have all voiced support for the protections enacted by Interior.

“Sierra Club applauds this decision to uphold the limits on mining on public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park and to protect the park and the greater Grand Canyon region from the hazards of uranium mining, which poses a threat to the people, lands, water, and wildlife of the region,” said Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter director. “We are disappointed that the court did not uphold the challenge to Canyon Mine, however, and we will continue to do all we can to ensure permanent protection of these lands.”

One of the great symbols of the American West, the Grand Canyon was first protected as a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The canyon is surrounded by millions of additional acres of public lands that include wilderness areas, two national monuments, lands designated to protect endangered species and cultural resources, and old-growth ponderosa pine forests. The canyon area is also home to indigenous people, including the Havasupai, Kaibab Band of Paiutes, Hualapai and Navajo tribes, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2016 the greater Grand Canyon region attracted over 6 million tourists and recreationists, and Grand Canyon tourism contributed $904 million to local economies and supported nearly 9,800 jobs.

“This victory is wonderful news for a region already riddled by decades of uranium industry pollution and plunder,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision is critical to protecting the Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers, biodiverse springs and surrounding public lands for future generations.”

“After an extensive review process and substantial public participation, the Department of the Interior’s decision to protect one of the world’s most enduring landscapes and the sustained health of indigenous communities that live within the watershed of the Grand Canyon was a strong and appropriate one,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The court’s action in upholding this ban is commendable.”

The uranium mining companies have 45 days to seek a rehearing by the three-judge panel or by the 9th Circuit sitting en banc. The companies also have 90 days from this decision, or from a denial of rehearing (whichever is later) to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review of the 9th Circuit Court decision. Such petitions are granted in only a tiny fraction of cases.

Download the decision here.

Trump Administration Targets Uranium Mining Ban Near Grand Canyon

 

IMG_6072

For Immediate Release, November 1, 2017

Contacts:

Allison Melton, Center for Biological Diversity, (970) 309-2008, amelton@biologicaldiversity.org
Amber Reimondo, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488, areimondo@grandcanyontrust.org
Abbie S. Fink, HMA Public Relations, (602) 957-8881 x 208, afink@hmapr.com
Kim Crumbo, Wildlands Network, (928) 606-5850, crumbo@wildlandsnetwork.org
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org
Kevin Dahl, National Parks Conservation Association, (520) 603-6430, kdahl@npca.org
WASHINGTON— The Trump administration wants to roll back a 20-year ban to allow uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, according to a Forest Service report formally released today.

Under today’s recommendations the Interior Department would revise an Obama-era mining ban that sought to protect tribal resources and drinking water, as well as safeguard critical wildlife corridors and habitat threatened by uranium contamination.

“This appalling recommendation threatens to destroy one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful regions to give free handouts to the mining industry,” said Allison Melton, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration’s willingness to sacrifice our natural treasures to polluters knows no bounds. But this reckless, shortsighted proposal won’t be allowed to stand.”

The mining moratorium, enacted in 2012 by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, bans new mining claims, exploration and mining — except for pre-existing mining rights — to protect Grand Canyon’s watersheds from uranium mining pollution. Past uranium mining in the region has polluted soils, washes, aquifers and drinking water.

“The Forest Service should be advocating for a permanent mining ban, not for advancing private mining interests that threaten one of the natural wonders of the world,” said Amber Reimondo with the Grand Canyon Trust. “The Grand Canyon and the people and communities that depend on it cannot be left to bear the risks of unfettered uranium mining, which is what will happen if the moratorium is removed.”

“This is a dangerous industry that is motivated by profit and greed with a long history of significantly damaging lands and waters. They are now seeking new mines when this industry has yet to clean up the hundreds of existing mines all over the landscape that continue to damage our home. We should learn from the past, not ignore it,” said Havasupai Tribal Chairman Don E. Watahomigie.

Hundreds of abandoned uranium mines still await cleanup, including more than 500 on the Navajo Nation.

“The Kaibab National Forest south of Grand Canyon National Park comprises crucial wildlife habitat for mule deer, cougars, elk and pronghorn,” said Kim Crumbo of Wildlands Network. “Considered sacred by Native Americans, the forest’s ponderosa pine, woodlands and wild creatures are vulnerable to the industrial impacts of mining and increased truck traffic should the mineral withdrawal be revoked.”

In a March 2017 executive order, President Trump required all agencies to review regulations, orders, guidance documents and policies to prioritize fossil fuel extraction and nuclear energy above all other uses on public lands. The uranium mining rollback is among the recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service.

“One million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon were protected from destructive uranium mining due to significant public support and recognition of what is at risk — Grand Canyon’s watershed, its wildlife, and so much more,” said Sandy Bahr, director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Now, the Trump administration wants to stomp all over the public and the public’s lands by rescinding these important protections. Doing so will put at risk Grand Canyon’s waters and wildlife, as well as the economy of northern Arizona, for the short-term profits of foreign mining companies. We must keep these protections in place.”

The USDA report concedes that uranium mining and other minerals do not generate revenue for the United States. In fact, steps to reduce or remove the mining ban would cost taxpayer money. The Trump administration would have to do environmental analysis and produce evidence to support reversing the current finding that uranium mining is harmful to communities, wildlife and water.

“After an extensive review process and substantial public participation, former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made a strong, affirmative decision to protect one of the world’s most enduring landscapes and the sustained health of indigenous communities that live within the watershed of the Grand Canyon,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Any move to allow more uranium mines before we know more fully how their operation would impact underground water essential to Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River puts all of us at risk.”

Nonpartisan polls show 80 percent of Arizona voters and 80 percent of Americans support permanent protection from new uranium mining for lands in the Grand Canyon region.

Click here for a fact sheet on why the Grand Canyon mining ban protects water, tribal resources and the greater Grand Canyon ecosystem.

 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Grand Canyon Trust uses science, advocacy and the law to protect the Grand Canyon and preserve the wild heart of the American West.

The Havasupai Tribe, “Havaasu Baaja” or “People of the Blue Green Water” are a federally recognized Indian tribe whose aboriginal homelands are comprised of the Grand Canyon and the plateau lands south and east of it. The only source of water for Tribe in Supai Village is springs that are fed by aquifers located primarily within the area of the mining moratorium.

Wildlands Network envisions a world where nature is unbroken, and where humans co-exist in harmony with the land and its wild inhabitants. Our mission is to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so life in all its diversity can thrive.

Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is a national nonprofit environmental organization with approximately 2.7 million members and supporters, including more than 60,000 in Arizona. Sierra Club’s mission is “to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; and to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.

Since 1919 the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit http://www.npca.org.

 

 

Bishop Launches Attack on Public Lands Mining Bans

For Immediate Release, September 29, 2017

Contacts:

Allison Melton, Center for Biological Diversity, (970) 309-2008, amelton@biologicaldiversity.org

Kevin Dahl, National Parks Conservation Association, (520) 624-2014, kdahl@npca.org

Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 286-3381, rclark@grandcanyontrust.org

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

Katie Davis, Wildlands Network, (801) 560-2414, k.davis@wildlandsnetwork.org

 

WASHINGTON— Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) is calling for a reversal of federal mining bans enacted during the Obama administration to protect Grand Canyon watersheds, national forests in Oregon and other pristine public lands.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Bishop says he wants to increase mining industry access to public lands.

“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.”

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.

“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[RS1]  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.”

“The public strongly supports protecting lands around the Grand Canyon from toxic uranium mining. It is outrageous that Representative Bishop is seeking to put at risk one of our nation’s crown jewel national parks, Grand Canyon, the public lands surrounding it, and to ignore the millions of Americans who have stepped up to support protecting this region,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.

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.


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Since 1919 the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

The Grand Canyon Trust works to protect and restore the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau — its spectacular landscapes, flowing rivers, clean air, diversity of plants and animals, and areas of beauty and solitude.

Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is a national nonprofit environmental organization with approximately 2.7 million members and supporters, including more than 60,000 in Arizona. Sierra Club’s mission is “to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; and to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.

The mission of Wildlands Network is to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so that life in all its diversity can thrive. We envision a world where nature is unbroken, and where humans co-exist in harmony with the land and its wild inhabitants.

New Lobo ‘Recovery’ Plan Puts Politics Before Science Risks Recovery of Highly Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves

Wolf pup

Photo credit USFWS

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

Media contacts:

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 253-8633, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org
Emily Renn, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery, (928) 202-1235,
emily@gcwolfrecovery.org

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.

 

Background

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Natural dispersal must be possible between the three core populations through habitat connectivity.
  3. Each of the three populations must have a minimum of 200 wolves and, together, must have, at the very least, 750 wolves.
  4. There must be a decrease in human caused mortality.
  5. 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.

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Havasupai Tribe to Hold Public Gathering at Red Butte – #StopCanyonMine

Uranium-Gathering-flyer-updated-web (2)

Uranium Company Calls Us “Egregious”? Sierra Club Offers Defensible Facts.

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.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

 

Aaaaaand, here’s another one:

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

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.

A truck arrives at Canyon Mine to pick up radioactively contaminated water to haul to the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, UT. The placard is labelled for petroleum products. Ryan Beam photo.

A truck arrives at Canyon Mine to pick up radioactively contaminated water to haul to the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, UT. The placard is labelled for petroleum products. Ryan Beam photo.

 

Facts.  Nothing but facts here.

Please let us know what you think.

 

 

Uranium Mine Near Grand Canyon Filling with Contaminated Water

Mine Operator Energy Fuels Violates Plan of Operations to Clear Out Excess Water

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 20, 2017

Contact:

Alicyn Gitlin, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, (520) 491-9528, (928) 774-6514

Leona Morgan, Haul No!, (505) 879-8547

Water cannons spray water from the mine shaft in the air at Canyon Mine. Alicyn Gitlin photo.

Water cannons spray water from the mine shaft in the air at Canyon Mine. Alicyn Gitlin photo.

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.

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”[1]; 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.

A truck arrives at Canyon Mine to pick up radioactively contaminated water to haul to the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, UT. The placard is labelled for petroleum products. Ryan Beam photo.

A truck arrives at Canyon Mine to pick up radioactively contaminated water to haul to the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, UT. The placard is labelled for petroleum products. Ryan Beam photo.

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.

“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.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Energy Fuels has drilled the shaft to approximately 1,400 feet and has intercepted high-grade uranium ore, although extraction has not yet begun.[3] 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.[4] 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.

###

Background

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.”[5] 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.[6]

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.”[7]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.”[8]  The holding pond clearly was not able to handle water pumped from the mine this year.

  


[1]http://www.navajonationcouncil.org/Navajo%20Nation%20Codes/Title%2018/CF-18-12.PDF

[3] 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.

[4] Cowan, Emery. Uranium mine deals with excess water. Arizona Daily SunAvailable at: http://azdailysun.com/news/local/uranium-mine-deals-with-excess-water/article_1f35d10b-3802-5083-a5bd-1c3f255363fc.html, accessed 3/16/17.

[5] Uranium mine permits denied, Arizona Daily Sun, May 14, 2008.

[6] 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.

[7] 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.

[8]  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.

Native Voices Offer “Our Story” of the Colorado Plateau at Rumble on the Mountain 3 – Sat., Jan 28

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.

James and Diana Sue Uqualla at Rumble on the Mountain II 2016 (Photo by Colleen Stravakos)

James and Diana Sue Uqualla at Rumble on the Mountain II 2016 (Photo by Colleen Stravakos)

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.


SCHEDULE:

rumble-flyer-small3:30-4:00 – 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

Saddle Mountain Wilderness, North of Grand Canyon. Alicyn Gitlin photo.

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.

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We will need every voice, every photo, every song, every opinion piece, every rally, every signature to call out in defense of Grand Canyon!

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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.

 

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