Mining the Grand Canyon: House bill would allow that, plus slew of other wildlands attacks

There have been a lot of tough moments this year for those who love the great outdoors but the plans to ready the Grand Canyon for toxic mining has got to be one of the toughest.

And this proposal is made even worse by the bill it’s a part of – the 2012 Interior Appropriation Bill – which makes deep cuts to environmental programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and yet more cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. Funding limitations would also prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing endangered species.

These attacks have made their way through the key House committee and are expected to be voted on by the full House before the month is over.

“The budget for conservation in this country is a tiny sliver of the federal budget, and an area that’s already seen deep and destructive cuts,” said William H. Meadows,  president of The Wilderness Society. “We won’t solve our nation’s financial problems by slashing these programs, but we will put clean water, clean air and the lands we love in peril. This bill even goes after the Grand Canyon itself, one of the most beloved landscapes in our nation and the world. We must turn back this assault.”

Meadows added that he hopes people across the country contact their member of Congress immediately and strongly encourage them to stop the open season on open spaces. He hopes they point to three of the most egregious measures that the House Appropriations Committee passed.

• Toxic Mining in Grand Canyon National Park: Though the Grand Canyon is one of America’s most iconic places, the House proposes to strip this national treasure of a critical protection – opening 1 million acres of the Canyon and surrounding areas to uranium mining. The bill would do so through a provision that eliminates any funding to be used to implement the six-month Department of Interior emergency moratorium on uranium mining claims by foreign corporations at the Grand Canyon. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) called the Grand Canyon “an earmark for the mining industry” in his comments during the hearing.

• Dirty Water, Dirty Air: This bill would eliminate the EPA’s ability to protect air and water from the dangers of pollution. The EPA is the watchdog for the health of the American people, including vulnerable populations like seniors and children. This bill would imperil its ability to enforce Clean Water Act protections for thousands of American streams and wetlands.

• Slash and Burn Budgeting: The bill would impose deep, debilitating cuts to critical conservation programs including the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This program makes polluters pay for the damage they do to the environment and uses those revenues to acquire land that is then protected forever.The House cuts to the LWCF would threaten a historic push in the Senate to finally fund the LWCF to its full potential

 Endangered species: A provision attached to the bill would bar all new listings of threatened and endangered species and critical habitat designations for current species. It would do so by preventing the Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money on such listing activities.

These budget cuts not only threaten the lands and wildlife that Americans cherish, they also threaten economic development. For example, a recent Interior department report noted that one program alone – the Land and Water Conservation Fund – spent $214 million on acquiring land in 2010 … generating $442 million of economic activity including 3,000 jobs.  If  the House cuts back LWCF by historic levels in the upcoming budget battle, this economic activity and job growth are in peril.

“What this means is that the cuts will soon decimate not just national and state parks, refuges, forest lands and Bureau of Land Management lands, but also local businesses and the countless jobs built around the recreation and tourism industries,” Meadows said. “In short, the House's effort to turn Uncle Sam into the bogeyman is now becoming a boomerang slicing its way through their back yards.”