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A proposed national monument in Arizona impacts Utah ranchers, energy

Nick Proctor walking in the Colt Mesa area of ​​Old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Friday, May 14, 2021. The land pictured across the dirt road is part of a national monument. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The possibility of designating 1.1 million acres of land in northern Arizona as a monument is being explored by Native American tribes and conservation groups, but a significant portion of Utah has access to winter ranches only within its boundaries. May affect a number of ranchers.

And with Biden pushing to advance next-generation nuclear technology, uranium mining, critical to a carbon-free future, is off-limits.

The proposed Burj Nwabujo Ita Kukuveni Grand Canyon National Monument is only in Arizona and borders the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near the Kane County area, but on land south of Washington County. and could affect Hildale, which straddles the Arizona border. and Utah.

Hearings by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service were held in Flagstaff on Tuesday, and the Utah Department of Agriculture formally submitted comments to the contrary.

“Although the national monument is located within Arizona’s borders, part of the national monument disproportionately affects ranchers in southern Utah by including a remote part of the state known as the Arizona Strip. ,” wrote Ron Gibson, president of the Utah Department of Agriculture. . “The Arizona Strip is geographically isolated from the rest of Arizona, sparsely populated, and culturally linked to Utah.”

Gibson noted that many ranchers in Kane and Washington counties graze cattle in the highlands of southern Utah and then winter in the lowlands of the Arizona Strip.

“We believe that the proposed national monument would eliminate this important winter habitat by either outright banning grazing or imposing unnecessary new restrictions on grazing permits, thereby reducing economic I am afraid that it will not be viable.”

In April, the Grand Canyon Tribal Confederation petitioned the Biden administration to protect the greater Grand Canyon region of cultural and historical significance to at least 12 Native American tribes and nations. The organization wants this designation to protect its cultural and religious heritage and natural environment and protect it from mining.

The Confederacy includes the Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Kaibab Paiute, Moapa Paiute, Las Vegas Paiute, Utah Paiute, Navajo, Southern San Juan Paiute, Yavapai Apache, and Zuni. and the Pueblo people of Colorado. River Indian tribe. The monument’s designation is endorsed by Tucson Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva and Sen. Kirsten Sinema, a former Democrat and now an independent from Arizona.

Arizona Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs also sent a letter to Biden in May urging him to designate the monument.

The designation comes through Biden’s use of the Antiquities Act of 1906, but supporters say as much as 375 million pounds of uranium deposits could be used to fuel the introduction of nuclear energy by the United States. It is also touted as a way to blockade uranium deposits. . The United States currently obtains most of its uranium from foreign countries, including Russia and China.

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Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon was banned for 20 years by the Obama administration in 2012, but has been the subject of court challenges and political scrutiny.

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According to Kingman, Arizona, miner, Mojave County officials said the area has one of the highest uranium reserves in the United States, containing one-third of all known uranium deposits in the country.

Washington and Kane counties, as well as the Hildale community, oppose the designation of the monument.

At the June meeting of the Utah Federal Commission, Rep. Karl Albrecht (R. Litchfield) expressed concern about the proposed monument designation because of its impact on farmers and uranium mining. .

“This memorial proposal makes it very difficult for us to supply uranium. No. We need to be cognizant of what this administration is doing with regards to carbon, power generation and grazing.”

At the same meeting, Redd Johnson, director of the Utah Public Land Policy Coordination Office, said the proposal has important implications for Utah, even though the monument is entirely in Arizona.

“Usually we don’t get involved in other states’ work on monuments, but if that part of the monument, this northwestern part, really affects primarily Utah people. , the governor’s office has agreed to write some articles for us and we will comment on that section,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating right now in Washington, D.C. I sometimes wonder if my right hand is talking to my left hand when it comes to federal designations and the binding of these minerals, whether it’s an important mineral or uranium.” It’s from.”

A concern for the Utah Department of Agriculture is the potential impact on ranchers if the designation excludes these rights.

“Grazing and ranching on public lands also provide many important cultural contributions. The farming communities of Southern Utah and the Arizona Strip are central to the region’s identity and sense of community.” Gibson said in a comment.

“Ranch management instills a sense of hard work, responsibility, and stewardship of the land. Ranchers value the public lands they use very much. Restricting or removing grazing would fundamentally change the culture, heritage and values ​​of the region.”

Gibson said members of the Department of Agriculture also objected to the Utah government’s lack of a meeting on the proposed designation.

Due to the lack of live streaming, a representative from the Utah Department of Agriculture for the Garfield County area had to attend the meeting in person.

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