Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, May 8, 2009

Contact:  Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Richard Mayol, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 999-5790

Suit Challenges New Uranium Exploration That Threatens the Grand Canyon

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club today amended their lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior to challenge newly authorized uranium exploration near Grand Canyon National Park. The new uranium projects are located within a 1-million acre area that was required to be immediately withdrawn from new mining claims and exploration by a June 25, 2008 emergency resolution of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Today’s amendment challenges new uranium projects authorized by the Bureau of Land Management on April 23 and April 27, 2009. While the Bureau initially denied that new uranium exploration activities had been authorized, it has since acknowledged that exploration on the lands in question could begin whenever the companies wish.

“The Bureau’s new uranium exploration runs afoul of both the law and a congressional resolution protecting Grand Canyon,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is an agency in dire need of leadership from the new administration — the Grand Canyon deserves it.”

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Natural Resources on June 25, 2008 voted 20-2 in favor of an emergency resolution requiring the secretary of the interior to immediately withdraw 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon from new uranium claims and exploration. New exploration authorized by then-Secretary Kempthorne violated the required withdrawal and prompted conservation groups to file the suit in September 2008. The suit cites violations of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and other laws. Today’s amendment incorporates the Bureau’s new uranium-drilling authorizations based on the same violations.

Emergency withdrawals have been enacted four times prior to this, most recently in 1981 and 1983 by the late Arizona Congressman Mo Udall and the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee to halt public lands mineral- and energy-leasing programs pursued by Interior Secretary James Watt. Congressman Raúl Grijalva also introduced the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act in March of 2008 and again in 2009, legislation that would permanently withdraw from mineral extraction the same 1 million acres encompassed by the Committee resolution.

“The Grand Canyon Trust encourages the Secretary of the Interior to take immediate action on the emergency withdrawal of these lands in order to allow time for the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 2009 to make its way through the legislative process,” said Richard Mayol, the Trust’s spokesperson.

Spikes in the price of uranium in recent years have caused thousands of new uranium claims, dozens of exploratory drilling projects, and movement to open several uranium mines on public lands immediately north and south of Grand Canyon. Concerns about damage to wildlife habitat as well as surface- and groundwater contamination of Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River have been expressed by previous Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano; the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; the Southern Nevada Water Authority; the Arizona Game and Fish Department; the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, Hualapai, and Kaibab Paiute nations; and the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.

"It is just outrageous that the Bureau is putting the short-term profits of these mining companies ahead of protection of one of the most amazing places in our nation, Grand Canyon, risking our water resources, and flaunting the law," said Sandy Bahr, chapter director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter.

Plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys Marc Fink of the Center for Biological Diversity, Neil Levine of Grand Canyon Trust, and Roger Flynn of Western Mining Action Project.

Click on the links below to view the following documents:

April 23, 2007 Bureau of Land Management uranium exploration authorizations
April 27, 2009 Bureau of Land Management uranium exploration authorizations
Map of newly authorized uranium exploration in violation of emergency withdrawal
Map of all uranium exploration authorized since and in violation of emergency withdrawal
Conservationists’ lawsuit against Kempthorne
Map of previous uranium exploration authorized in violation of emergency withdrawal
Map of uranium claims, seeps, and springs in withdrawal area
Letter by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano
Letter by Los Angeles Water District
Coconino County Grand Canyon uranium resolution
Testimony of Dr. Larry Stevens
Testimony of Dr. Abe Springer
Testimony of Robert Arnberger, former Grand Canyon National Park superintendent
Testimony of Roger Clark
Testimony of Chris Shuey
Supplement to Chris Shuey Testimony
Letter dated July 15 from Department of Interior
Letter dated July 16 by Congressman Rahall 

The Grand Canyon Trust is a regional, nonprofit conservation organization
committed to protecting and restoring the Colorado Plateau.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 220,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


Go back