Arizona has been home to five generations of my family. I am the fourth generation and am proud of our long history of protecting public lands and natural treasures.
As a six term Coconino County Supervisor, I have worked to continue that tradition as an elected leader. I have consistently supported and fought for protection of Northern Arizona’s lands, so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from them as we have. When it comes to banning uranium mining at the Grand Canyon, we need our federally elected leaders in Washington D.C. to join hands to protect our state’s most iconic and cherished natural landmark. Protection of the Grand Canyon is not a partisan issue, it is a “bread and butter” issue.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited places on the planet, and those visitors spend money in Arizona. A lot of it. A recent National Park Survey estimated that in 2018 spending supported almost 13,000 jobs and had a cumulative effect of over $1 billion to our local economies. As a resident of Flagstaff, it’s safe to say we cannot put that tourism at risk, especially as we continue to see lower visitation rates due to the COVID pandemic.
Northern Arizona has a negative history with uranium mining. Mining companies abandoned mines with no regard for the harmful impacts to health and the environment. These decades old abandoned uranium mines continue to exist without remediation and have contaminated drinking water in Northern Arizona, including on the Navajo Nation. Uranium leads to health problems including birth defects, cancer, respiratory illness and more. Many Native Americans still suffer from the effects of uranium exposure and drinking contaminated water. It is time to protect our communities from any further risk from uranium mining.
The reality is that uranium mining near the Grand Canyon just isn’t necessary. There are other reliable and plentiful sources of uranium that can be mined in far safer conditions with lower risk to people and the natural environment. The Grand Canyon is just too special to put at risk and the long-term impact on our community is too great to risk, particularly when we are still feeling the impacts of those abandoned uranium mines.
Thanks to Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Representative Raul Grijalva for championing and introducing legislation that would permanently ban uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. Representatives Tom O’Halleran, Ruben Gallego, Ann Kirkpatrick and Greg Stanton are co-sponsors. Unfortunately, Senator Martha McSally hasn’t committed to supporting the legislation, leaving our state’s most iconic and cherished natural landmark in jeopardy.
Protecting the Grand Canyon should be a bi-partisan effort led by both our Senators. We need Senator McSally to speak out and join Senator Sinema in supporting the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act. When it comes to protecting the Grand Canyon – silence is not golden.
Liz Archuleta is a Coconino County Supervisor and the Arizona Spokesperson for HECHO (Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors)
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!