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Tribes hope Biden’s Arizona visit means long-sought Grand Canyon monument

Proponents of mining restrictions around Grand Canyon National Park on Monday expressed hope that the new national monument will preserve land for future generations.

President Joe Biden is visiting the area on Tuesday and will announce plans for a new national monument to preserve about 1,562 square miles (4,046 square kilometers).

Representatives from various northern Arizona tribes have been invited to attend the president’s speech. Among them are Colorado River Indian Tribe President Amelia Flores, Navajo President Boo Niglen, and Havasupai Tribal Rep. Deanna Sue White Dove Uquala. Ms. Ukuala is part of a group of tribal dancers performing a celebration performance.

“Uranium really doesn’t want to come out of the ground because it affects everything around it: trees, land, animals, people,” said Uquala. “I can’t stop.”

Tribes in Arizona are pressuring Biden to use his powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to build a new national monument called Bahji Nwabjo Ita Kukuveni. ‘Baaj Nwaavjo’ means ‘where the tribe roams’ to the Havasupai, and ‘I’tah Kukveni’ means ‘our footsteps’ to the Hopi.

For decades, tribes and environmentalists have tried to protect the lands north and south of Grand Canyon National Park, while Republican lawmakers and the mining industry tout their economic interests and criticize mining as a matter of national security. We are promoting development.

In response to concerns about the risk of water pollution, the Home Office enacted a law in 2012 to suspend applications for new mining rights claims around national parks for 20 years. Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva has repeatedly introduced legislation to create a national monument.

In the vast region of northern Arizona known for its high-grade uranium ore, most springs and wells meet federal drinking water standards despite decades of uranium mining, according to the U.S. Geological Survey in 2021. found to be fulfilled.

In 2017, Democratic President Barack Obama withdrew the monument designation altogether. The idea faced hostile reaction from Arizona’s Republican governor and two senators. Then-Governor Doug Ducey said Arizona already had enough national monuments and threatened legal action.

Opponents of the monument say it won’t help combat prolonged drought, hinder forest thinning, and may prevent hunters from controlling wildlife populations. Ranchers in Utah, near the Arizona border, claim the monument designation strips them of their private property.

Since then, the landscape of political delegations in Arizona has changed significantly. Governor Katie Hobbs, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, and independent Senator Kirsten Sinema are all in attendance. Hobbes, a Democrat, openly urged Biden to run for the nomination. In a letter sent to Biden in May, Hobbes claimed he had heard support for the monument from people across political lines, including sports and outdoor groups.

The mining companies and the sectors that could benefit from their business are vehemently opposed. Mojave County Superintendent Buster Johnson said the memorial proposal felt entirely politically motivated and that another public hearing should have been held on the issue. He doesn’t develop uranium and doesn’t understand the implications of being less dependent on Russia.

“We need uranium for our national security,” Johnson said. “We are out of the game.”

No uranium mines are operational in Arizona, but the Pinyon Plain mine, just south of Grand Canyon National Park, has been under development for years. The federal government said more than a dozen mines in the area that were withdrawn from new mining claims could still open even with monumental designation because their claims were established before 2012. said there is.

After Arizona, Biden will travel to Albuquerque on Wednesday to talk about how the fight against climate change has created new jobs. Then, on Thursday, he plans to visit Salt Lake City to mark the first anniversary of the PACT Act, which provides new benefits to veterans exposed to toxic substances. Re-election fundraising activities will also be held in each city.

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