20-year Moratorium, Upheld by 9th Circuit Court Today, Protects Tribes, Water, Wildlife, Tourism
For Immediate Release, December 12, 2017
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.”
Havasupai Tribe, Conservation Coalition Celebrate Key Win for Water, Wildlife, Sacred Lands
For Immediate Release, December 12, 2017
Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice (303) 996-9622 (w), (303) 641-3149 (c), firstname.lastname@example.org
Don Watahomigie, Havasupai Chairman, (928) 448-2731, email@example.com
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter (602) 999-5790, firstname.lastname@example.org
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 890-7515, email@example.com
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414 firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Dahl, National Parks Conservation Association, (520) 603-6430, email@example.com
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.
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.”
For immediate release: Sept. 20, 2013
Contact: Alicyn Gitlin, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter 928-774-6514; Diane Rechel, Museum of Northern Arizona 928-774-5211 ext. 273
Celebrate the Colorado River During Colorado River Days Flagstaff
Events around Flagstaff Examine our Cultural Connection to the River and its Future Oct. 1-8
Flagstaff, Ariz. (Sept. 21, 2013) – Events to inspire people to protect and celebrate the Colorado River will be held in Flagstaff during the 2nd Annual Colorado River Days, October 1- 8.
Hosted by the Sierra Club, Museum of Northern Arizona, and Grand Canyon Trust, events will include a film, lectures, a songwriting contest, storytelling, and a First Friday Art Walk gathering,
This year’s activities are designed to promote public discussion about proposed development along the river, water supply issues, and the relationship that northern Arizona residents have with the Colorado River.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s 2012 Colorado River Water Supply and Demand Study confirmed there are significant shortfalls in future water supplies when compared with predicted demands. Last month, the Bureau announced the first-ever changes in water delivery to lower basin states, in response to ongoing drought that has reduced reservoir levels to historic lows. The river no longer reaches its delta in the Sea of Cortez, and new pipelines and projects threaten to siphon even more water.
The Colorado River provides recreation, drinking water, and irrigation to millions of people. It stretches across 1,450 miles of land, carving into the earth to form beautiful landscapes such as the Grand Canyon. The river is home to many isolated and imperiled species including Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, and bonytail and razorback sucker.
“As demands on water use increase, we need to recognize Flagstaff’s connection to the Colorado River and discuss how we should protect it, not just because it’s integral to our economy, but also because of the incredible ecosystems that depend on the river and its floodplains,” explained Alicyn Gitlin, Conservation Coordinator for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Protection Campaign.
Schedule of events:
Tuesday, Oct. 1, 6:00 p.m. Film at the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA), 3101 N Fort Valley Rd. My Canyonlands: The Adventurous Life of Kent Frost MNA is pleased to host this event for Colorado River Days. Free admission.
Thursday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m. Colorado River Songwriting Contest at Uptown Pubhouse, 114 N. Leroux St. Come cheer on your favorite performers. Song submissions due Thursday, Sept. 26. To get more information, contact Alicyn Gitlin at 928-774-6514 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, Oct. 4, 6 – 8:30 p.m. at Heritage Square. Colorado River Celebration. Organizations connected to the River will host tables in the Square during October’s First Friday Art Walk. Get involved with a new cause, meet new friends, and learn something new. Musical performance by Ed Kabotie.
Saturday, Oct. 5, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N. Ft. Valley Rd. 3rd Annual Grand Canyon Authors Symposium: Of Lines and Layers. Authors explore the Grand Canyon through words and images. Authors include Lori Rome, Midji Stevenson, Bronze Black, Rick Kempa, Naseem Rakha, Christa Sadler, Tom Martin, Seth Muller, Stephen Hirst, Heidi Blankenship, Danny Rosen, Jean Rukkila, Ann Weiler Walka, and Margaret Erhart. Included with admission to the Museum of Northern Arizona.
Saturday, Oct. 5, 5:30 p.m. at the Grand Canyon Trust, 2601 N. Fort Valley Rd. Stories from the Confluence. A very special night featuring storytellers who hold a special place in their heart for the Confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers, including families who live there and local yarn spinners. BBQ potluck starting at 5:30 p.m., with campfire stories 6:30-8:30 p.m. Burgers, brats and campfire provided. Please bring a story and a side dish to share. BYOB.
Sunday, Oct. 6, 11 a.m. Morning talk at the Zane Grey Ballroom (upstairs) at the Weatherford Hotel, 23 N. Leroux St. Eric Balken of Glen Canyon Institute will focus on Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon, exploring the ecological, economic, and social importance of the Colorado River as its existence is reshaped by demand, drought and climate change. With an ever-growing population and projected reduction in future flows, Colorado River water is evolving from an abundant resource to one of great scarcity and value. The discussion is followed by a Glen Canyon Institute social gathering: Meet GCI members and learn about the organization.
Monday, Oct. 7, 6 p.m. at the Coconino Center for the Arts, 2300 N. Fort Valley Rd. The Future of the Colorado River: Presentations and panel discussion by those trying to plan for future conservation and use of the river. Ask questions and offer your thoughts.
Tuesday, Oct. 8th, 6 p.m. at Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N. Ft. Valley Rd. The Future of the Colorado River: Presentations and panel discussion by those trying to plan for future conservation and use of the river, including Ron Doba of the Colorado Plateau Water Advisory Council, James Duffield of the Hopi Tribe Water Resources Program, Deanna Greco of Grand Canyon National Park, and Eric Balken of Glen Canyon Institute. Ask questions and offer your thoughts.
For Colorado River Days Flagstaff information, go to http://www.coloradoriverdaysflagstaff.org/.
The Museum of Northern Arizona is at 3101 N. Fort Valley Road in Flagstaff, Arizona. For information, go to musnaz.org or call 928-774-5213.
Glen Canyon Dam Experimental Flood: Success or Failure?
Did the Feds aim low so that success could be called? Is this a band-aid on a trauma victim? Or should we celebrate? It depends who you ask.
Arizona Republic: Feds’ Grand Canyon Flood a Success
Standard-Examiner: Grand Canyon Flooding had Mixed Results
Living Rivers News: Controlled Flood in Grand Canyon a Dud
“Nobody asked me,” says the pikeminnow.