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Win keeps new uranium mining away from Grand Canyon, but fight isn’t over

S prings and the waterways they feed make up a tiny fraction of Grand Canyon National Park, but they harbor up to 500 times more species than the dry land around them — including species that are threatened, endangered or found nowhere else on Earth, from Kanab amber snails to white- flowering redbud trees.

Unfortunately, uranium mining on public lands bordering this world-famous, iconic park threatens to pollute its precious aquifers — and the springs the canyon’s biodiversity depends on.

In good news for the region and its wildlife, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in June that he’s extending, by six months, a two-year ban on new uranium mining on 1 million acres of public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. The next step is to make sure the Bureau of Land Management extends that temporary ban into a 20-year moratorium.

We’re hopeful that the Grand Canyon will finally get the protection we’ve pursued for years, but we’ll need to be vigilant to see it through. That will require beating back any attempts in Congress to stop enactment of a 20-year ban by slashing funding to study the effects of uranium mining. It also means making Salazar reverse course on his support for mining on existing claims, which still places species and ecosystems at risk.

The two-year ban imposed in July 2009, which temporarily blocked new mining claims and exploration across the Grand Canyon’s million-acre watershed, included a proposal for the 20-year prohibition on new mining claims as well as new

development of existing claims that lack valid rights. Salazar’s order this summer extended the ban to Dec. 20. Meanwhile, this September, the BLM is scheduled to release its environmental analysis, which Salazar says should include the 20-year ban as the agency’s “preferred alternative.”

The BLM’s draft environmental impact statement failed to identify a preferred alternative or address a worst-case pollution scenario — despite hydrologists’ warnings that rainwater could carry mining toxics deep into the aquifers that feed the canyon’s seeps and springs. That underground pollution would be impossible to clean up and a disaster for the canyon’s wildlife.

The Center and our allies have worked for years to prevent such irreversibly destructive activity in and around one of our country’s greatest natural treasures. We’ve filed four lawsuits and organized strong public support for a long-term uranium ban — and now, with your help, we’ll keep pushing the administration hard to see it through.

aylor Mc innon, the Center’s public lands campaign directo , lives and works near Grand Canyon country in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Together, we can save the canyon’s waters and wildlife.

ore than 32,000 Center supporters sent letters this spring urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to ban new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. Thanks for your support — your effort paid off in june when Salazar agreed to extend a two-year ban on new mines on 1 million acres around the canyon. But we can’t let our guard down: We must ensure that the Bureau of Land Management imposes a long-term ban, that Congress can’t derail it, and that existing mining ceases to threaten vast numbers of springs and creeks — and all the life that depends on them — with pollution from radioactive materials and heavy metals. M

We can’t do it alone — we need your continued support to forever ban uranium mining from the stunning landscapes that surround the Grand Canyon. To make a special gift to protect the canyon, call us at (866) 357- 3349 or visit us online at BanUranium.biologicaldiversity.org.

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