WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives is expected to begin debate on Thursday and vote on a comprehensive public lands package Friday that will prevent uranium mining pollution in the greater Grand Canyon area, designate 1.49 million acres of public land as wilderness, and add more than 1,000 miles of rivers to the National Wild and Scenic River System. The package includes eight bills introduced by congressional representatives from Arizona, Colorado, California and Washington. They include the Grand Canyon Protection Act introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse.
President Joe Biden has set a goal of protecting 30 percent of United State lands and waters by 2030. The protections included in this package would be a strong first step from Congress toward meeting this goal.
In 2018, Environment America Research & Policy Center released a report titled Grand Canyon at Risk: Uranium Mining Threatens a National Treasure. Uranium mining — which can spread radioactive dust through the air and leak toxic chemicals into the environment — is among the riskiest industrial activities in the world. In addition to many other devastating impacts, mining in this area has contaminated tributaries of the Colorado River, which supplies drinking water to 40 million Americans.
Environment America Public Lands Campaign Director Ellen Montgomery issued the following statement:
“We need more nature in our lives and this package is a meaningful step in the right direction. These bills will safeguard critical habitat for hundreds of species. It will also provide important protection for one of the crown jewels of our national park system, the Grand Canyon. For decades, proposed uranium mining operations have threatened the area. Millions of Americans have taken pictures on the Grand Canyon’s rim, and those who haven’t, can visualize the majestic view and clean skies above. We don’t picture a dangerous mine or imagine inhaling radioactive dust. A uranium mine is the last thing we need right outside one of our most visited and most breathtaking places.
“Beyond the beauty, the Grand Canyon is also home to more than 400 species of birds and nearly 100 species of mammals, including bats, bighorn sheep and javelina. Radioactive waste is just as bad for them as it is for us. We must make sure this wild area remains unspoiled. No type or amount of mineral is worth trashing this national treasure.”
Environment California State Director Laura Deehan issued the following statement:
“California is full of beautiful places, many of which need more defenses than they have now. This package does so much for California, including creating stronger protections for ecologically sensitive areas, establishing new recreation areas and providing funds for research into expanding trails and visitors centers. We thank our California Members of Congress for their role in introducing these bills, which will have widespread support from recreation groups, local governments and conservation groups. This legislation is good for California, and we should waste no time passing it into law.”
Environment Washington State Director Pam Clough issued the following statement:
“Our rivers are an essential part of our state. They provide habitats for salmon and other important species. They also play a huge role in Washington’s outdoor life — from sports fishing to kayaking — and provide drinking water for local communities. Protecting our waterways though the Wild and Scenic designation will ensure these wellsprings of life are protected for future generations in Washington. We applaud Rep. Derek Kilmer’s leadership on this issue and urge the House to pass this bill.”
Environment Colorado State Director Hannah Collazo issued the following statement:
“The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act has support from across our state because Coloradans love our public lands. We are thrilled that this legislation, which will designate more recreation areas and more wilderness areas in our state, is being voted on as part of this package. This legislation will protect beautiful high country areas like Ice Lake Basin and McKenna Peak in the San Juan Mountains from mining and development so it can be enjoyed by hikers now and in the future.”