Uranium mining from the Grand Canyon is hurting us all. We must ban it

At Trout Unlimited, we’ve been working since our founding in 1959 to protect, reconnect, restore and maintain trout habitat on behalf of today’s athletes.

The commitment extends to the protection of public lands that support healthy ecosystems for all wildlife, such as the landscape surrounding the Grand Canyon which remains threatened by uranium mining.

In 2012, the US Department of the Interior declared a 20-year moratorium on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, which had allocated funding to study the impacts of uranium mining on the water, wildlife and habitat in the area.

The results of a 2010 U.S. geological survey that spurred the moratorium documented 15 sources and 5 wells containing dissolved uranium that exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water.

Uranium mining poses a serious risk to the wildlife and people who live in the area, as well as those who enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and camping there. Water in this area is scarce, and small springs and streams that are not visibly connected to the surface provide conduits of contamination to places far from the original source.

Nothing was done to clean up the contamination

The incredible Lee’s Fishery Ferry on the Colorado River could potentially be damaged due to the interconnection of perennial, intermittent and ephemeral streams.

Nothing has been done since 2012 to clean up the more than 500 contaminated mines in the region. New cases of uranium contamination from existing mines have occurred and funding for initially planned studies has been reduced.

At the same time, foreign mining interests continue to pressure the Interior and Commerce departments to reopen the area to new mining operations.

Reacting to the Geological Survey and the outcry from Arizona residents, the Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly introduced the Grand Canyon Protection Act, S. 387.

This legislation will prevent uranium mining in the 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon, land that has long been sought after for uranium mining. This bill would still allow the multi-use of the landscape: logging, grazing and outdoor recreation.

Hunters, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts come from a wide range of political backgrounds. One thing that binds us all together, a true American ideal, is the conservation of wildlife and wild lands. The wildlife, the fisheries and the water that sustains us are not partisan issues.

The Grand Canyon Protection Act is a responsible, science-based approach with a vision for the future.

We need the Grand Canyon Protection Act

Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon is unacceptable given the best available science and the known risks to our natural resources, the economy of northern Arizona, and the communities that rely on Colorado River water. It’s time to stop playing with the future of the Grand Canyon region.

As athletes, we value the multiple use of our public lands and insist on practical and scientific approaches to manage our natural resources. The Grand Canyon Protection Act meets this criterion and we strongly support it.

As an athlete and Arizona Public Lands Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, I congratulate our Arizona elected officials who are working to protect these lands and waters from the irreversible damage of uranium mining in this region.

There is clear evidence that the benefits simply do not outweigh the risks to water and wildlife. With the nation’s goal of protecting 30% of public lands and waters by 2030, conserving this vast expanse of land will help achieve that goal.

We cannot undo the toxic history that has been left in this region, but we can prevent further contamination from destroying its future.

We need action from Congress, including representatives of the Arizona delegation, now to pass S. 387. Let’s work to protect the Grand Canyon and the lands and waters around it.

Nathan Rees is the Arizona Public Lands Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, which advocates for conservation through collaboration between landowners, agencies and nonprofits. Contact him at [email protected]

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