The Trump administration has made no secret of its hunger to open public lands to extractive industries, and now it has the Grand Canyon in its sights. In response to an executive order requiring all agencies to review regulations that potentially “burden” domestic energy development, the U.S. Forest Service has published a list of policies that include a 20-year moratorium on new uranium-mining leases near the Grand Canyon. The ban, which went into effect in 2012, covers one million acres of public land and is intended to protect nearby natural and tribal resources, as well as the millions who rely on the Colorado River for clean drinking water. Uranium mining in the southwest has a history of sickening Navajo miners and polluting drinking water in an already drought-ridden part of the country. “They are now seeking new mines when this industry has yet to clean up the hundreds of existing mines all over the landscape that continue to damage our home,” said Don E. Watahomigie, chairman of the Havasupai tribe. “We should learn from the past, not ignore it.” Though there will undoubtedly be no shortage of backlash to the announcement, it’s unclear when the public comment period will begin.
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ExplainerWest, United StatesBrian Palmer
Uranium mining threatens aquifers that could provide the drought-stricken West with emergency water supplies.
Expert BlogBobby McEnaney