Stanton: Canyon gets a reprieve that would have made Mo proud
Rep. Raúl Grijalva unearths a legal tactic favored by Morris Udall to keep uranium miners from exploring land around the Grand Canyon for a year
In a slick maneuver perfected by the late, great Mo Udall, U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva Wednesday will get the votes needed to protect the Grand Canyon.
The House Committee on Natural Resources will approve an emergency declaration to halt uranium mining activity on more than 1 million acres there.
Floor debate? We don't need no stinkin' floor debate. Or a vote by the full House or Senate, for that matter.
An emergency can be declared when "extraordinary measures must be taken to preserve (land) values that would otherwise be lost," says Section 204 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.
Such House declarations have been made only four times - all four by Arizona's legendary Rep. Morris K. Udall, a Tucson Democrat.
Udall always said "you can get anything done in the House as long as you know the rules," recalls Tucson's Chris Helms, his former aide and the retired executive director of the Udall Foundation.
And get it done Udall did:
• In 1978, he froze uses of 104 million acres of Alaska, land later carved into national parks, wildlife refuges and conservation areas under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act written by Udall.
• A year later, Udall halted exploratory uranium drilling within the Casita Reservoir Watershed in California.
• In 1981, he forced Interior Secretary James Watt to withdraw 1.5 million acres of forests from mineral leasing in three Montana wilderness areas where the secretary planned to issue oil and gas leases.
• And in 1983, Udall's final emergency declaration withdrew coal leases opposed by Indian tribes in Montana and North Dakota.
Now, 25 years later, Grijalva is following in the footsteps of another great Tucson Democrat.
Grijalva's Grand Canyon resolution, signed by committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., will protect the canyon's buffer zone from uranium exploration for one year.
The Bush administration will challenge the constitutionality of this move, Grijalva predicts.
Udall's emergency declarations prevailed in several challenges and lawsuits, however, and the land policy law hasn't changed.
What's mystifying is the lack of immediate, loud support from a united Arizona delegation.
Only Democratic Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Ed Pastor had expressed support as of this writing.
"If I were our delegation, our esteemed senators, I wouldn't want to be on the side of challenging (the canyon protection)," Grijalva said.
If anything ever deserved full bipartisan support in Arizona, it is the Grand Canyon, one of the world's seven wonders.
Yes, mineral exploration may be tempting, with uranium prices expected to rebound from $57 a pound to $90 a pound, as the International Herald Tribune reported Monday.
But earlier uranium exploration in northern Arizona now is costing the U.S. government tens of millions of dollars in assessments and cleanups.
Cold War mining on the Navajo reservation - in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah - sparked a public health tragedy that still reverberates today. Between 1944 and 1986, more than 4 million tons of uranium were extracted from Navajo land.
Prolonged exposure to uranium is cited in the premature deaths of Navajo miners, and cancer clusters and genetic defects still being passed on.
Contamination of water sources, homes and buildings still is being assessed by federal agencies.
Uranium exploration simply isn't appropriate in the buffer zone of Grand Canyon National Park.
The canyon, the very icon of Arizona, attracts more than 5 million visitors a year from around the world.
Its Colorado River and tributaries support populations from Tucson to Los Angeles to the Colorado River Delta in Mexico.
"The ecological, geological and hydrological connections between the canyon and the lands adjacent to it are formidable and profound," notes Tucson's Robert L. Arnberger, a former superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park who now serves on the executive council of The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.
The coalition, with about 650 members representing more than 17,000 years of managing national parks, supports Grijalva's declaration.
"What happens around the park eventually finds its way to the park and vice versa," Arnberger says.
Yet the Forest Service recently approved exploratory drilling for uranium at seven sites within three miles of Grand Canyon National Park.
That's why Grijalva had to get creative and wound up with an emergency declaration a la Udall.
Grijalva's bill, HR 5583, would have taken too long and may never have made it through the current administration.
Now the lands in question must be withdrawn from drilling for a year.
"Hopefully our senators will step in and talk to the administration," Grijalva said in an interview last week.
"Then comes the next hope: We get permanent legislative relief and an administration with a much kinder and gentler view of the Grand Canyon."
Until then, Grijalva deserves thanks - and the protection of our Grand Canyon deserves strong, full support from every Arizona delegation member.
azbackpackr wrote:Grow a garden.
azbackpackr wrote:Anyway, does anyone have any info about what the govt. plans to do with all the waste if they build more nu-clee-er power plants in future? Dump it in the Nevada desert? Shoot it into outer space? Send it to Iran? Pollute the aquifers with it? Dump it into the ocean so the containers can corrode and cause radioactive material to get into the food chain, so we can never eat fish again? Think about it.
azbackpackr wrote:Ride a bicycle.
azbackpackr wrote: Have you ever been to Eagar, where I live? It is very hard to keep oneself educated here!
azbackpackr wrote:Religion? Who me? Hah. Not a chance. I'm a thorough agnostic.
One thing we can all tell you flatlanders, though, and that is how to SPELL Eagar. It's a family name. Lots of them around here. In fact, when I moved here nine years ago, my first boss was a Mr. Eagar. Yikes.
I don't care for the fee system, either. They started it on Mt. Lemmon a couple of years before I moved here. I HIKED up from the desert trailheads to the pines many times--no fee required if you do that! That was before you had to pay to park at Sabino.
It is too bad that the most recent court case regarding someone trying to fight the fees was lost by the defendant.
They don't have the fees in this national forest. There would be no way to enforce it, I don't think.
azbackpackr wrote:One thing we can all tell you flatlanders,
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