Photo Credit: Kristen M. Caldon

The Greater Grand Canyon Watershed Needs Protection from Continued Threats

Mining

Resurging uranium mining interest in the Greater Grand Canyon region threatens the health of local communities, downstream water supplies, recreation opportunities and the natural heritage of this area. Mining causes significant and well-documented harm to both human health and natural resources. Current mines in the region continue to threaten drinking water and the lands wildlife call home.

Tribal communities in the Grand Canyon region have been the most directly and intensely affected by uranium mining, which has:

  • Contaminated groundwater and surface water sources (including those used for drinking water)
  • Created toxic air pollution
  • Disturbed and destroyed lands considered sacred
  • Cost American taxpayers millions of dollars to clean up old mines

In 2012, the U.S. Department of the Interior instituted a 20-year moratorium on new leasing of the lands and waterways that feed the waters of the Grand Canyon. However, despite continued strong opposition from tribes, scientists, businesses, sportsmen, local governments and conservation groups, there have been repeated attempts to roll back the temporary moratorium. The Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument proposal covers approximately two-thirds of the lands included in the moratorium and could protect them permanently.

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Logging Old-Growth Forests

The continued logging of one of the last remaining old-growth ponderosa pine forests in the country only adds to potential impacts to the lands near the canyon. In addition to mining, the cutting of these vital and endangered trees can have long term consequences for wildlife, natural springs and larger creeks and streams. Old-growth ponderosa pines are incredibly rare in the Southwest, making up less than three percent of forests in the region. These larger trees are naturally fire-resistant and specially adapted to the harsh environments of the Southwest. When properly managed, these old-growth stands provide a wealth of benefits to human and natural communities, including naturally filtering water supplies. Nearly half, and in some places up to 95 percent, of these endangered forests have already been lost to logging. Thinning out smaller trees is possible without taking out the last of these rare big pines.

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Diminishing Wildlife Habitat

The large ponderosa pine forests, aspen stands and grassland meadows are home to many native plants and animals, like the Kaibab squirrel that lives nowhere else in the world. The North Kaibab forest is home to an internationally renowned mule deer herd popular with hunters and wildlife watchers alike. The herd seasonally migrates along a largely unprotected wildlife passageway through the watershed to the high plateaus of Utah. Uranium mining, energy development and other developments proposed within this vital passageway threaten the ability of wildlife to live and roam. On the south side of the canyon, uranium mining in particular poses serious threats to mule deer, goshawks, Abert squirrels and pronghorn, while the loss of old-growth forest to the north jeopardizes Northern goshawks, Kaibab squirrels and other animals that depend on the trees for food and shelter

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