Western Caucus Attacks America’s Treasured Lands in Arizona

Feb 28, 2012

America’s Wilderness, including Grand Canyon, under siege

The Wilderness Society today challenged the objective and focus of the Western Caucus event, “Washington Obstacles to Prosperity and Property Rights in the West.”  The event focused on undermining bedrock environmental laws and America’s recreation economy that thrives on protected lands. The Grand Canyon was among the places under siege, just as the mining and nuclear industries filed suit to overturn Secretary Salazar’s effort to protect this iconic American treasure.

One witness was from Arizona, repeating the misguided mantra of extractive industries being great for local economies. Yet, history has shown the long-term destructive boom-and-bust cycle of mining’s impact on local economies.

“When the commodity price drops, companies lay off local employees, leave the pollution, and take their profits elsewhere.” said Mike Quigley, Arizona wildlands campaign coordinator at The Wilderness Society. “We need a more robust and sustained economic model for Arizona’s future; and we need an appropriate—that is, greater—focus on conservation as part of that.”

Citizens across the West are not buying what opponents of environmental safeguards are selling. A recent bi-partisan poll from Colorado College showed that 90 percent of Arizona voters agreed that “our national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas are an essential part of Arizona’s economy.”  Additionally, 74 percent said that “Arizona should maintain protections for land, air and water in the state rather than reduce them in an effort to create jobs as quickly as possible.” This is not surprising, given that the Grand Canyon National Park supported roughly 10,000 jobs annually between 2005 and 2010.

America’s Wilderness is Under Siege from a select few members of Congress, and the witnesses echoed this dangerous rhetoric. Witnesses took aim at some of our most treasured lands, such as the Grand Canyon, preferring to have these lands managed by corporate polluters and irresponsible developers instead of the general public.