Salazar extends uranium mining ban at Grand Canyon National Park

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 26 2011 4:32 p.m. MDT

A perspective from the South Rim at Grand Canyon Village offers views of formations like The Battleship and Cheops Pyramid. While snow can pile up in winter on the plateau edges, precipitation turns to rain in the warmer canyon below.

Ray Boren

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that his agency favors a 20-year ban on any new uranium mining on federal lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park.

That decision is contained in a final environmental impact statement and will extend a moratorium put into effect in 2009.

The ban, which impacts a million acres, was applauded by environmental groups, as well as recreation and tourism businesses.

“Expanded uranium mining in this area isn’t just bad environmental and public health policy, it’s also bad economic policy,” said Christopher Thomas, executive director of HEAL Utah. “We applaud the Salazar decision. It protects public health, as well as the region’s vibrant tourism industry.”

The canyon supports 82,000 jobs and generates nearly $5 billion a year in retail sales and services for the state, according to Protect the Flows, a coalition of businesses in seven Colorado River basin states, including Utah.

“A healthy and sustainable Colorado River free from toxic contamination means that families and outdoor enthusiasts will continue to visit and enjoy the communities close to its banks,” said Molly Mugglestone, spokeswoman for Protect the Flows, a coalition of businesses in the seven Colorado River basin states who directly depend on the river for their livelihood. “Healthy rivers translate to the healthy local economies that power a robust multibillion dollar national recreation economy.”

The group fears potential contamination from uranium mining, with new interest driven by the dramatic increase in uranium ore since 2005. Thousands of new mining claims have been filed on the nearby Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Lands, according to the coalition, with much of within 10 miles of the park.

Amy Joi O'Donoghue Twitter: amyjoi16

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