WATCH: Sen. Kelly’s Bill to Protect the Grand Canyon Gets Senate Hearing
Today, legislation introduced by Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining, the Grand Canyon Protection Act, was heard in the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining.
The bill would prohibit new uranium mines around Grand Canyon National Park, protecting Arizona groundwater, outdoor recreation and tourism industries, and tribal communities. As of 2020, there are more than 600 active mining claims in the temporary mining ban area around Grand Canyon National Park. Without a permanent ban, these claims can turn into mines resulting in activity that could contaminate land, air, and water around the park, harming nearby residents and tribes.
“Uranium mining around the Grand Canyon is a bad idea. It’s as simple as that,” said Kelly in the hearing. “It presents an unacceptable risk to aquifers and springs inside Grand Canyon National Park. And it threatens the Havasupai Tribe, which has lived in the Canyon for more than 800 years. The bill that Senator Sinema and I introduced would ban mining on roughly 1 million acres of federal land surrounding the Park.”
Protecting the Grand Canyon region from uranium mining and other harmful activities is widely supported by tribes, local elected officials, businesses, veterans, outdoor recreation groups, conservationists, and more. Grand Canyon National Park welcomes over 6 million visitors a year, contributes $1.2 billion to local economies, and supports over 12,500 jobs in the region.
See what Arizonans are saying about Kelly’s legislation:
“The Grand Canyon region is no place for uranium mining and the City of Flagstaff is proud to stand for environmental justice and support the Havasupai Tribe and other tribes of the region who have opposed uranium mining on their ancestral homelands for decades,” said Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy. “The millions of visitors who flock to the region each year are also a major driver of Flagstaff’s tourism-based economy and it has been the consistent stance of the City to protect that.”
“We urge the passage of the Grand Canyon Protection Act—a long-held goal of many Indigenous tribes and nations alongside a broad coalition of supporters who agree this region is inappropriate for uranium mining,” said Amber Reimondo, energy director for the Grand Canyon Trust. “The bill’s passage will permanently safeguard a culturally and economically significant landscape and the complex groundwater systems beneath it that grow more important amidst a megadrought.”
“We thank Arizona Senators Sinema and Kelly for their support of this simple and straightforward law that would once and for all permanently ban new uranium mines on our ancestral lands,” said Havasupai Tribal Chairman Thomas Siyuja.
“As a County Supervisor and a long-time resident of Coconino County, I have seen firsthand the consequences of uranium contamination and the health and safety risks it poses,” said Coconino County District 1 Supervisor Patrice Horstman. “On the Navajo Nation alone, there are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines that have not been cleaned or mitigated. This environmental and public health threat to one of the world’s greatest treasures must not be allowed to continue and protection of the Grand Canyon is best served through the swift passage of the GCPA.”