We’re one step closer to protecting the Grand Canyon from uranium mining. The Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands will review Chair Grijalva’s “Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act” this Wednesday. His bill permanently protects 1 million acres north and south of Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining claims. The Grand Canyon is a wonder of the world. It doesn’t just exist for industry profit. On Tuesday, June 4, Arizonans come together to support the bill and #KeepItGrand. Watch live here at 12:15 p.m. Eastern time.

Posted by House Committee on Natural Resources: Democrats on Monday, June 3, 2019
#KeepItGrand: H.R.1373, the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act

Tribes back bill to ban new uranium mining around Grand Canyon

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fresh off one policy strike against the Trump administration, tribes and Democrats in Congress are looking to score another with a ban on new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Leaders of the Havasupai Tribe and the Navajo Nation joined key lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol here on Tuesday in support of H.R.1373, the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act. The bill, introduced on the 100th anniversary of the area's designation as a national park, would bar development on lands the tribes call home and hold sacred.

"Stop uranium mining on the rims of our canyon home," said Carletta Tilousi, a council member from the Havasupai Tribe, whose citizens have lived in the area for centuries. Toxic waste from development has polluted the water and has claimed far too many lives, she added.

"We want a safe home, we want clean water, and we deserve that, as the first Americans here in this country," Tilousi asserted in the nation's capital.

Vice President Myron Lizer of the Navajo Nation voiced similar concerns. Though uranium mining is now banned on the reservation, past development has poisoned his people's homelands and has caused numerous health problems and even deaths, he said.

“The Navajo Nation has suffered profound impacts from uranium mining,” Lizer said, citing the 500-plus abandoned sites where high levels of toxins remain.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), who is one of the first two Native women in Congress, joined the tribal leaders in explaining how the uranium industry has impacted the first Americans. Her tribe, the Pueblo of Laguna, dealt with a mine on its reservation in neighboring New Mexico for decades.

“I know all too well the damaging effects uranium mining can have on a community,” Haaland said of a development where cleanup efforts have yet to begin, more than 30 years after winding down.

As the first Native person to serve as vice chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Haaland will be able to carry that story, as well as those of the tribes, to a bigger platform. On Wednesday, H.R.1373 is getting its first hearing before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, which the Native lawmaker chairs.

“Everybody knows it’s a special place,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said of the Grand Canyon.

“It’s a sacred place for many tribes," added Grijalva, who introduced H.R.1373 on February 26, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park.

A second bill is on the agenda for Wednesday morning's hearing on the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act and its inclusion is no accident. H.R.2181, the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, bans energy development around Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.

Just last week, the Trump administration agreed to hold off on oil and gas leases around Chaco in response to opposition from Democrats in Congress, as well as Pueblo tribes and the Navajo Nation. Vice President Lizer is among the witnesses for the hearing.

"We Navajos are tasked with protecting the land," Lizer said at the U.S. Capitol.

Whether the Department of the Interior, which oversees both Grand Canyon and Chaco, believes the same will be addressed for the record on Capitol Hill. But the answers won't come from the highest reaches of the political team at the agency with the most responsibilities in Indian Country -- instead, a mid-level representative from the Bureau of Land Management is scheduled to testify at the hearing.

In the case of Grand Canyon, former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in 2012 withdrew one million acres from new uranium mining claims for up to 20 years. Industry groups filed suit in response but lost before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court later refused to review the matter, letting the Obama-era withdrawal stand.

Former Secretary Ryan Zinke, who ran Interior between January 2017 and January 2019, later said he had no plans to revisit the issue. He's since been replaced by David Bernhardt, his former deputy, whose focus on Grand Canyon has been addressing long-standing allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and mismanagement rather than the ban.

Bernhardt was invited to visit Grand Canyon during his confirmation hearing in March. When asked about Chaco, he appeared to be non-committal about oil and gas development there.

But after a visit to the area and meeting with Pueblo and Navajo leaders May 28, he announced a concession. Leasing around Chaco would not proceed without considering tribal views, he determined, and not without looking at the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, which calls for a 10-mile buffer zone in which development would be permanently prohibited.

Of his excursion to the lands where Pueblo and Navajo ancestors built communities, held ceremonies and laid their loved ones to rest, Bernhardt said: "I walked away with a greater sense of appreciation of the magnificent site managed by the National Park Service and a better understanding of the of tribal leaders’ views of its cultural significance."

The Havasupai Tribe closes out with a message to Washington: “Our protest song — No uranium mining!” #KeepItGrand #HonorTheSacred #Arizona

Posted by Indianz.Com on Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Indianz.Com Video: Havasupai Tribe Protest Song: 'No Uranium Mining'

In a case that was separate from the Obama-era withdrawal of new uranium claims around Grand Canyon, the Havasupai Tribe challenged the existing mining rights at the Canyon Mine. The development, about six miles south of Grand Canyon, is located on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The area also falls within the Red Butte Traditional Cultural Property, a designation granted in 2010 at the insistence of the tribe. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the mining claims of Energy Fuels Resources, the owner of the Canyon Mine.

"A lot of my ancestors that stood up in the 1980s against Canyon Mine, located right next to our sacred mountain, have passed away," Carletta Tilousi, the Havasupai council member, said at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.

"They told us to keep fighting this fight, to protect our water and our existence," Tilousi said.

The Canyon uranium mine is located in the Red Butte Traditional Cultural Property within the Kaibab National Forest. The Grand Canyon sits six miles to the north. Photo: Bruce Gordon / Ecoflight

The tribe subsequently asked the Supreme Court to reverse the 9th Circuit decision on the grounds that the reopening of the Canyon Mine should be subjected to additional environmental review. The Trump administration didn't bother to respond to the petition, a step taken usually when the government feels its case is strong enough to withstand a challenge

Sure enough, the justices denied the petition in Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio in an order on May 20. No explanation was given for the action.

Despite the setback, the 9th Circuit ruling gave the tribe and conservation groups an opening to challenge the mining operation on different grounds. That holding has not been changed.

The hearing on the Grand Canyon and Chaco legislation takes place at 10am Eastern on Wednesday in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. It will be webcast by the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.

The full witness list follows:
Panel I
Mr. Michael Nedd (All Bills)
Deputy Director, Operations
The Bureau of Land Management

Panel II
The Honorable Carletta Tilousi (H.R. 1373)
Havasupai Tribe

The Honorable Coral Evans (H.R. 1373)
City of Flagstaff, Arizona

Dr. Peter Huntoon (H.R. 1373)
Retired Professor of Geology and Geophysics
The University of Wyoming

The Honorable Buster D. Johnson (H.R. 1373)
District 3 Supervisor
Mohave County Board of Supervisors

Panel III
The Honorable E. Paul Torres (H.R. 2181)
All Pueblo Council of Governors

The Honorable Myron Lizer (H.R. 2181)
Vice President
Navajo Nation

The Honorable Timothy Menchego (H.R. 2181)
Pueblo of Santa Ana

Mr. Samuel Sage (H.R. 2181)
Community Services Coordinator
Counselor Chapter House
Ms. Delora Hesuse (H.R. 2181)
Navajo Indian Allottee

House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Notice
National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Legislative Hearing (June 5, 2019)

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decisions
National Mining Association v. Zinke (December 12, 2017)
Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio (December 12, 2017)
Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio [Revised Decision] (October 25, 2018)

Supreme Court Documents
No. 18-1239: Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio
No. 17-1286: National Mining Association v. Zinke
No. 17-1290: American Exploration & Mining Association v. Zinke

More: #KeepItGrand

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