Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Donít bet the Grand Canyon on uranium mining

The Obama administration has proposed a 20-year ban on uranium mining on lands bordering the Grand Canyon.

Opponents to the ban argue that mining would create jobs, and would not represent a threat to the canyon.

Proponents of the ban agree with Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Tucson, who said simply, "It's the Grand Canyon, stupid."

President Theodore Roosevelt, whose devotion to the American landscape earned him a place on Mount Rushmore, wrote, "In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder, which so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country—to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is."

In other words, do no harm.

Where is TR when we need him? His sentiments were replaced by those of President Ronald Reagan. In a dispute with environmentalists, Reagan proclaimed, "A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?"

Anyone who has ever traveled among the great redwoods knows what nonsense that is. Every one of the giant redwoods is special and unique. In a grove, they are as majestic as anything built by humankind at Notre Dame or Chartres, and impossible to replicate.

There are certainly those who do not see it that way. They believe that if we need wood, we can and should cut down the redwoods. If we need power, as demonstrated by the rising price of uranium, so what if the land that holds that uranium happens to be held in the public trust and lies next to the Grand Canyon?

And where is our current leadership?

If Sen. John McCain of Arizona really were a maverick of the Teddy Roosevelt variety, as he frequently says he is, he should be fighting to preserve the park and the land around it from any threat. He would not allow any risk to this natural treasure.

Instead, McCain and the rest of the Arizona congressional delegation have chosen to support the interests of the extractive industries, including a company controlled by the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, which is not even required to pay royalties to the United States.

Anyone who has ever stood on the rim of the canyon knows why Interior Secretary Ken Salazar should never give in to powerful mining interests, no matter what the rationale.

It's the Grand Canyon!

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