Phoenix, AZ --(ENEWSPF)--June 20, 2011. Today, the Sierra Club applauded an announcement by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recommending protection for more than a million acres of public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park from mineral exploration and mining for 20 years. The area will remain temporarily protected from new mining claims by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management until the recommendation goes into effect.
"Secretary Salazar's action will help protect the Grand Canyon’s waters, sacred Native American sites, critical wildlife habitat and much-needed jobs in the region's tourism-based economy," said Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director. "The Sierra Club appreciates and strongly supports Sec. Salazar's significant action to protect these precious public lands, prevent expensive, long-term health risks for local communities and respect permanent uranium mining bans put in place by the Hualapai, Havasupai and Navajo nations on their lands surrounding the park. "
There are more than 3,000 uranium mining claims in the plateaus surrounding the Grand Canyon. Development of these claims would industrialize regionally sacred wildlands, destroy wildlife habitat and permanently pollute or deplete aquifers feeding the Grand Canyon's biologically rich springs.
Today's announcement follows efforts by Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ), scientists, tribal and local government leaders, businesses and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens to secure protections for the region and its waters. The Colorado River watershed provides water to millions of acres of farmland and people throughout the Southwest living in southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson.
"This is a great day for the Grand Canyon, its wildlife and everyone in the Southwest who relies on the Colorado River for drinking water," said Sandy Bahr, the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter Director.
The Greater Grand Canyon region is a wild and remote landscape that includes two national monuments (Vermilion Cliffs and Grand Canyon-Parashant), two national forests (Coconino and Kaibab), numerous wilderness areas, and the crown jewel of our national park system: Grand Canyon National Park. These lands provide important connections for wildlife movement and homes to key animals like the desert tortoise, the endangered California condor, the northern goshawk, and the Kaibab squirrel-- an animal found nowhere else.
Today, the plateaus surrounding the Grand Canyon support almost 100 kinds of rare plants and animals, and the largest tracts of old growth ponderosa pine forest in Arizona.