We’re happy to report the Interior Department has announced a prohibition on mining at the Grand Canyon and the surrounding watersheds for the next 20 years.
Wildalert members helped secure mining moratorium
New mining claims will be prohibited across more than 1 million acres of public lands making up Grand Canyon National Park’s watershed, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Jan. 9. Many thanks to our wildalert members who helped contribute to this win by sending thousands of letters to the Interior department over the past year.
How mining hurts the Grand Canyon watershed
Development of valid mining claims staked before the ban will continue to be permitted, but the recent decision will prevent additional mining development from further threatening the magnificent lands in the Grand Canyon watershed.
Further mining would industrialize the iconic wildlands flanking the park with:
- new roads
- exploration drilling
- power lines
- truck traffic.
All of this industrial activity threatens to damage wildlife habitat and world-class hunting grounds.
How would uranium contaminate the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon’s watershed is a complex groundwater flow system that extends miles north and south of the National Park’s boundary. If contaminated by uranium mining, those aquifers would be impossible to clean up—a point acknowledged by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
The aquifers feed the Grand Canyon’s springs and creeks, which provide haven for up to 500 times more species than adjacent uplands — including threatened, endangered and even endemic species found only in Grand Canyon National Park.
Mining moratorium helps preserve Arizona's tourism economy
By industrializing the Grand Canyon region and risking permanent pollution of its soil and water resources, uranium mining would also threaten the Southwest’s robust tourism economy — for which Grand Canyon National Park is the primary economic engine.
The outdoor recreation business in Arizona annually supports 82,000 jobs, generates almost $350 million in state tax revenue, and stimulates about $5 billion in retail sales and services. Rafting companies, outfitters, gear manufacturers, hotels and restaurants all benefit tremendously from the Grand Canyon’s unpolluted water, air and vistas.
The Interior Department’s decision on this ban reinforces the role the agency should play in managing our public lands by evaluating the various uses in the region and safeguarding fragile lands from permanent damage.