Interior Secretary Ken Salazar traveled across town to the National Geographic Society on Monday to unveil a new Park Service film to be shown to visitors at the Grand Canyon and, by the way, to also announce that he is withdrawing 1 million acres of Arizona watershed nearby from uranium and other hardrock mining claims. The decision, a reversal of Bush administration policy, would give federal officials 20 years to monitor impact of mining on the land. It does not affect mining permits already granted.
"A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape," Salazar said. "People from all over the country and around the world come to visit the Grand Canyon. Numerous American Indian tribes regard this magnificent icon as a sacred place and millions of people in the Colorado River Basin depend on the river for drinking water, irrigation, industrial and environmental use. We have been entrusted to care for and protect our precious environmental and cultural resources, and we have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations."
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was not happy. "The Obama Administration's ban on uranium mining is a devastating blow to job creation in northern Arizona, particularly in Mohave County," he said. "This decision is fueled by an emotional public relations campaign pitting the public's love for the Grand Canyon against a modern form of low-impact mining that occurs many miles from the Canyon walls and in no way impacts the quality of drinking water from the Colorado River. It is deeply unfortunate that certain environmental groups have chosen to break faith with a 30-year-old compromise with environmentalists that successfully balanced conservation with mining and other commercial activities."