Department of Interior Issues “Two Year Time- Out”
On July 20, 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced his decision to segregate approximately 1 million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon for an evaluation to determine if the future of the land is in mining or land conservation. In what he called a ”two- year time out,” Salazar seeks to halt all new uranium mining claims on the vast tract of land in question to study the effects of mining and similar activities in the area. The halt, however, will not prevent “ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing claims,” all of which might proceed when the time- out takes place, according to a Department of the Interior news release published earlier today. In the report Salazar stated, “We have a responsibility to ensure we are developing our nation’s resources in a way that protects local communities, treasured landscapes, and our watersheds”, and noted that the land study will include the measured opinions of the “public, members of congress, tribes, and stakeholders.” The assessment will be led by the Bureau of Land Management and will be supplemented by the expertise of the US Forest Service, US Geological Survey, and the National Park Service. The report noted that the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area are “home to rare, endemic, specially protected plant and animal species,” as well as citizens, and serves too as a valued part of the American landscape– All things vital to our nation that are to be considered in the ongoing study. The Colorado River flows through the Canyon, and has emerged as a source of concern because the river has historically been subject to much pollution and mismanagement. This evaluation will determine whether the government should withdraw the lands from new uranium mining claims for an additional 20 years, although only the US Congress can initiate a permanent withdrawal.
by M. Molendyke