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Victory Closer in Battle to Protect Grand Canyon

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, July 20, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, today proposed to place off-limits to new mining activity approximately one million acres near the Grand Canyon for up to 20 years. The proposal prohibits the staking of new mining claims for up to two years to allow for various studies to be performed. Previous attempts by a House committee to protect the Grand Canyon were ignored by the Bush administration.

“Today’s decision is good news for the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River that provides drinking water for 25 million Americans,” said Environmental Working Group (EWG) senior public lands analyst, Dusty Horwitt. “Secretary Salazar and the Obama administration deserve credit for making good on their promise to bring a more balanced approach to management of our public lands. Given the toxic legacy and continued risks of uranium mining, we urge Secretary Salazar to complete the proposed withdrawal and we urge Congress to pass the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act so that these lands will be permanently protected from uranium mining.”

“Congress must reform the antiquated 1872 Mining Law that leaves federal land managers virtually powerless to determine where mining can occur,” added Horwitt. “This iconic poster child for America’s natural treasures shouldn’t be threatened by toxic mining operations and a legislative relic of westward expansion.”

Environmental Working Group’s analysis of Bureau of Land Management data found that the number of claims in the area that would be protected by the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act has skyrocketed from 110 in January 2003 to 8,543 in January 2009. Most, if not all, of these claims are for uranium. This area roughly matches the area proposed for withdrawal by Secretary Salazar.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org

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