‘The Arizona Strip is historically, religiously, culturally more Utah than Arizona,’ one Utah mayor said
America’s newest national monument may be in Arizona, but critics argue the Biden administration was out of line and out of touch to create it without first consulting with the Utahns who will be impacted the most.
During his visit to the Historic Red Butte Airfield Aug. 8, a few miles south of the Grand Canyon, President Joe Biden designated over 917,000 acres of federal forest and rangelands in northern Arizona as the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni — Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument.
The monument, situated along the Arizona Strip, aims to protect the Grand Canyon from more uranium mining, which Native Americans said would despoil many sacred ancestral sites, leach into aquifers and threaten water supplies. Its creation takes the 20-year moratorium President Barack Obama enacted on new uranium claims in the area in 2012 and makes the ban permanent.
Biden’s announcement drew swift condemnation from state and southern Utah officials, who characterized the new monument as yet another example of federal overreach and underhanded dealing. For some, the announcement evoked feelings of déjà vu. On Sept. 18, 1996, then-President Bill Clinton visited the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park and declared the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on 1.7 million acres in southern Utah.