Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) announced on February 16th, that the House Rules Committee will consider a package of Natural Resources Committee bills early next week ahead of a full House vote on Wednesday, Feb. 23. The package includes Grijalva’s Grand Canyon Protection Act, which was introduced as a standalone bill on Monday; Rep. Joe Neguse’s (D-Colo.) Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act; and a collection of bills introduced in the last Congress as a package by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) under the heading Protecting America’s Wilderness Act.
“Of all the places on Earth to protect from mining pollution, the Grand Canyon should be the least controversial. The people of this state, and this country, should never again be subjected to special interest demands that we open the land around one of the wonders of the world to more pollution and exploitation.”
Chair Raúl M. Grijalva
The bills introduced in the previous Congress as the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act heading and now included in the new package are: San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.); Colorado Wilderness Act, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.); Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.); Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.); Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.); and Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
Grijalva on Monday introduced his Grand Canyon bill alongside 16 House Democratic cosponsors to permanently protect the greater Grand Canyon region from new mining claims and the pollution they would produce. Grijalva has made Grand Canyon protection a priority since coming to Congress in 2003, and as Chair of the Committee has drawn together an unprecedented coalition of Native American communities, conservation advocates, local elected officials, sportsmen and other stakeholders in support of permanently protecting the region from further mining pollution.
The bill – mirroring similar efforts in previous congresses – permanently withdraws slightly more than 1 million acres of federal land north and south of Grand Canyon National Park from eligibility for any future mining claims and leaves valid existing claims intact. Local stakeholders agree that uranium deposits in this part of Northern Arizona should not be mined for fear of contaminating the Grand Canyon or the seeps and springs in the region.
The area is currently in the midst of a 20-year moratorium on new claims instituted in 2012 by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Unless extended, that moratorium will expire in the next decade.
“Of all the places on Earth to protect from mining pollution, the Grand Canyon should be the least controversial,” said Grijalva. “The people of this state, and this country, should never again be subjected to special interest demands that we open the land around one of the wonders of the world to more pollution and exploitation. Nobody, with the exception of a few mining interests and their political apologists, can look into the eyes of the people who live here and say with a straight face that we need to keep having this argument. Protecting the Grand Canyon region is an environmental justice issue, an economic issue, and a moral issue all at the same time, and I’m proud to bring this coalition together to resolve it in the public interest once and for all.”
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