Center for American Progress Action Fund

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is scheduled to release a final determination Jan. 9 to withdraw 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from new mining claims for 20 years, and Center for American Progress’ (CAP) Public Lands Project released its Top Five Winners and Losers of Secretary Salazar’s Decision to Protect 1 Million Acres Around the Grand Canyon.

In praising the announcement, Christy Goldfuss, director of the Public Lands Project, noted, “This is the best call to protect a national treasure. After taking a time-out to study the impacts of excessive uranium mining on the Grand Canyon, the administration came to a fact-based conclusion. The real winners of this decision are American families that will continue to enjoy one of our country’s most beautiful locations, the outdoor recreation industry that supports the conservation economy, and the millions of people that drink the water that flows through the region.”

To respond to the inevitable attacks from enemies of conservation in Congress, the Public Lands Project outlines the top five winners and losers of the decision. The winners include:

  • The 25 million people who get their drinking water from the Colorado River. One of the most important rivers in the nation, providing drinking water to 25 million Americans, would have been exposed to possible water contamination from uranium mining.
  • American businesses in the outdoor recreation industry which thrives on Americans’ ability to get outside. In Arizona alone the outdoor recreation economy annually supports 82,000 jobs, generates almost $350 million in state tax revenue, and stimulates about $5 billion in retail sales and services.
  • Arizona workers who benefit from tourism dollars in and around the Grand Canyon that create and sustain local jobs. Headwaters Economics found that Grand Canyon National Park supported more than 6,000 jobs in 2009 and tourists spent more than $400 million.
  • Hunters and anglers who will not lose access to this prime fish and wildlife habitat. A letter from nine sportsmen groups in July 2011 noted that “Uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park is wholly unacceptable given the best science available and the potential impacts…” The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has endorsed the mineral withdrawal.
  • American families who will continue to have an opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon in its untarnished state. Almost 5 million people visit every year to take part in camping, hiking below the rim, viewing the sights from the window of a lodge, or otherwise taking in the canyon’s natural magnificence.

The losers include:

  • International atomic interests that have expressed interest in the uranium deposits around the Grand Canyon. Examples (many of which are foreign or multinational) include—Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency; Denison Mining, partially owned by Korea’s state-owned electric utility; and Vane Minerals, a British company.
  • Congressmen Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Trent Franks (R-AZ) who have taken the lead in relentless attempts to force the administration to open the Grand Canyon area to industrial development. Flake’s effort over the summer to attach a policy rider on a budget bill to tie the Interior Department’s hands was dubbed “the Flake earmark.” Flake has already received $12,000 in campaign contributions from mining interests for his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.
  • The National Mining Association, one of the largest natural resources trade and lobbying groups in the nation, which fought this decision. In 2011 it spent $3,580,266 lobbying Congress on various issues, and its non-coal focused PAC has already spent $78,000 in campaign contributions for the 2012 cycle ($70,500 of which went to Republicans). A spokesman from the group in June stated that Secretary Salazar’s six-month withdrawal “sets a troublesome precedent.”
  • Scientist Karen Wenrich, called to testify by Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee, who stood to make $225,000 from alleging that there would be little impact from uranium mining on the Colorado River. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that Karen Wenrich, a retired U.S. Geological Survey scientist, entered into a deal to sell 61 uranium claims only if the mineral withdrawal did not go through.
  • Companies seeking to exploit the public’s treasures for corporate profits. Under the 1872 Mining Law, mining companies are not required to pay royalties to the public for the mineral resources that they extract. Not only are taxpayers not properly compensated for their natural resources, but they are frequently left to foot the bill for environmental cleanup.

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The Center for American Progress Action Fund is the sister advocacy organization of the Center for American Progress. The Action Fund transforms progressive ideas into policy through rapid response communications, legislative action, grassroots organizing and advocacy, and partnerships with other progressive leaders throughout the country and the world. The Action Fund is also the home of the Progress Report.