The Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo, and Hopi are among the tribes working with Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., environmental groups and other lawmakers to designate 1.7 million acres bordering Grand Canyon National Park as the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.
The designation would make permanent the 20-year federal moratorium on new uranium mining in and around the canyon put in place in 2012. At stake are a fragile watershed, extensive wildlife habitat and sacred and archaeological sites important to the tribes’ religious and cultural survival.
With elections less than a month away and a lawsuit brought by mining companies seeking to end the federal moratorium set for a hearing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in December, time is short.
Rep. Grijalva introduced legislation a year ago that would provide increased protections for some of the public lands around the Grand Canyon, but proponents believe the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act is unlikely to overcome Congressional gridlock. The alternative is to ask President Barack Obama to use his executive authority under the Antiquities Act to proclaim the monument, and that’s what Grijalva and the tribes have done.
“We want to see the designation occur before the president leaves office.” says Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, “We don’t know who the next president is going to be and what their policy on protecting nature will be, so we’re asking President Obama to act quickly before his term ends.”
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