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National Park Service Turns 100 Today

The Canyon Mine sits 6 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Conservation groups want President Barack Obama to declare a new national monument in the area. (Bret Fanshaw/Environment America)
The Canyon Mine sits 6 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Conservation groups want President Barack Obama to declare a new national monument in the area. (Bret Fanshaw/Environment America)
August 25, 2016

PHOENIX – The National Park Service, often called America's Best Idea was founded 100 years ago today, and all parks are free this weekend to celebrate.

Conservation groups in Arizona are taking the opportunity to renew their call for President Barack Obama to create a new Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument, which would preserve 1.7 million acres of land on both the northern and southern rim.

Ellie Lorenzi, an organizer with the Arizona chapter of Environment America, hopes the president will act before he leaves office.

"The Grand Canyon is one of the most amazing places on Earth,” she states. “Currently it is under threat due to reckless uranium mining that could ruin the area for generations."

Environment America has gathered almost 4,400 signatures on petitions calling for the monument over the past week from voters, small businesses and coalition partners.

There are four existing mines, several future projects and dozens of mining claims within the boundaries of the proposed monument.

Tests done by the U.S. Geological Survey show unsafe levels of uranium in 15 springs and five wells within the Grand Canyon's watershed.

In 2012 the secretary of the interior declared a 20-year moratorium on new mining in the area. But mining companies are suing to overturn it.

Lorenzi notes that one company, Energy Fuels Incorporated, has begun to reopen a mine just 6 miles from the park's south rim, claiming it isn't covered by the ban.

"So currently only the canyon itself is protected,” she points out. “But what we're calling for is that the 1.7 million acres that provides critical protection for the Colorado River and its watershed also be protected as a national monument."

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva introduced the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act last fall, but it has not been granted a vote.


Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ