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AZ Advocates Join Push in D.C. for New Monument Near Grand Canyon

Bison graze in the Kaibab National Forest, part of the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.(Michelle Vacchiano/iStockphoto)
Bison graze in the Kaibab National Forest, part of the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.(Michelle Vacchiano/iStockphoto)
December 15, 2016

PHOENIX – A group of Arizona legislators, tribal leaders and outdoor advocates is in Washington, D.C., today, pushing the administration to create a new national monument on the outskirts of the Grand Canyon before President Obama leaves office.

The group wants the president to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to establish a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument which would protect 1.7 million acres near the north and south rims of the canyon.

Jamescita Peshlakai, a member of the Navajo Nation and state senator-elect from the Grand Canyon area, said the land is part of her cultural heritage that must be kept in its natural state.

"Native American people still have our ancient ceremonies. We are still connected to the ancient memories of our people,” Peshlakai said. "Keeping our environment in the pristine condition is very important to the sacredness and who we are."

In 2012 the Secretary of the Interior issued a rule banning new uranium mining in the area for 20 years to protect the Colorado River watershed. But a new administration would only have to hold a 30-day public comment period and argue that the rule is no longer needed, before rescinding that moratorium.

Dennis Welsh, a former councilman with the Colorado River tribe, said he hopes Obama will cement his environmental legacy by declaring a new national monument.

"The people that Trump is looking to put into these key positions are pro-money, pro-corporations, pro-greed,” Welsh said. "That's a threat. Obama's administration, he has done a lot of good things for the environment and helping Native Americans as well."

Welsh said if the new administration tried to undo a national monument designation, it would spark a long legal battle, because the Antiquities Act grants the president authority to create a national monument, but does not specifically grant the power to dissolve one.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ