[Marxism] Grand Canyon Waters, at the Abyss

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 14 09:13:12 MDT 2015

NY Times Op-Ed, Oct. 14 2015
Grand Canyon Waters, at the Abyss

Eldorado Springs, Colo. — I RECENTLY reunited with an old friend — not a 
person, but a place in Arizona, the state where I was born. It is a 
timeless place of great antiquity, a shrine of the ages that President 
Theodore Roosevelt said “man can only mar.”

Roosevelt proclaimed the Grand Canyon a national monument in 1908. In so 
doing, he specifically intended to prevent mining and tourist 
development from harming one of our nation’s most treasured landscapes. 
“Keep it for your children, your children’s children and all who come 
after you,” he said, “as the one great sight which every American should 

But mar it we have. An abandoned uranium mine on the canyon’s South Rim 
has cost taxpayers more than $15 million to remove toxic wastes from the 
surface. And contaminated water — flowing underground through the mine’s 
radioactive ore — continues to poison a spring-fed creek deep within the 
canyon. It is a permanent loss at an unconscionable cost that should 
never be borne again.

Roosevelt’s proclamation set aside only a fraction of the Grand Canyon 
as a national monument. His decision rankled mining and tourist 
businesses in the booming Arizona territory. Local politicians and 
profiteers fought the postage-stamp-size monument’s further protection 
as a national park in 1919.

In 1975, Congress nearly doubled the park’s size, declaring that the 
entire Grand Canyon “including tributary side canyons and surrounding 
plateaus, is a natural feature of national and international 
significance.” Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a Republican, 
introduced the bill. My dad, Congressman Morris Udall, a Democrat from 
Arizona, helped unite bipartisan support to better protect Arizona’s and 
America’s most famous natural wonder.

The Grand Canyon Enlargement Act, signed into law by President Gerald 
Ford four decades ago, returned more than 100,000 acres of federal land 
to the Havasupai tribe. It also effectively banned the building of two 
new dams in the canyon’s upper and lower gorge. But it, too, fell short 
in protecting the Grand Canyon in its entirety.

Today, four uranium mines operate within the watershed that drains 
directly into Grand Canyon National Park. Arbitrary boundaries and 
antiquated rules permit these mines to threaten hundreds more 
life-giving seeps and springs in the desert basins below. Thousands of 
new mining claims on public lands that surround the canyon were put on 
hold by a 20-year moratorium imposed in 2012 by Ken Salazar, then the 
interior secretary. The National Mining Association and the Nuclear 
Energy Institute are suing in federal court to end the ban.

Achieving this hard-won hiatus on new uranium claims took more than five 
years and one of the broadest coalitions ever aligned to protect the 
Grand Canyon. The Havasupai, “people of blue-green water,” whose sole 
source of drinking water is at risk, led the way. They were joined then 
by county supervisors, chambers of commerce, ranchers, hunters, 
bird-watchers, artists, scientists, Arizona’s governor, game and fish 
commissioners and business owners. All united to stop uranium mining 
from permanently polluting the Grand Canyon and undermining the region’s 
tourism-driven economy.

But the 2012 victory to halt new claims was temporary. Our challenge now 
is to rebuild that coalition and make the ban permanent. There’s no 
reason to wait. President Obama can protect it now.

Congressman Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, plans to introduce 
the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act next week. It 
was written in collaboration with Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi leaders. 
The Navajo Nation, which banned all uranium mining on its land in 2005, 
joined in support along with Zuni, Paiute and Yavapai leaders.

The bill aims to protect 1.7 million acres of historical tribal 
homeland, including water sources and sacred sites. It would preserve 
the Grand Canyon’s rich heritage of “biological, cultural, recreational, 
geological, educational and scientific values.” It would make permanent 
the 20-year ban on new mining clams but would allow hunting, grazing, 
recreation and all other uses to continue under existing laws.

Unfortunately, there’s almost no chance that the legislation will gain 
approval in today’s gridlocked Congress. But the 1906 Antiquities Act 
gives the president unilateral authority to set aside federal lands as 
protected national monuments to stop the looting of archaeological sites 
and for reasons of “historic or scientific interest.”

This past summer, President Obama used this authority to protect over 
one million acres of federal land in California, Nevada and Texas. Now 
we must prevail upon the president to permanently protect the Grand 
Canyon’s sacred waters.

Earlier this year, my wife and I were invited to join native leaders on 
a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. We’ve made many such trips 
before. But this time, at nearly every spring along the way, we stopped 
to pray.

All water is sacred to those who have learned to live where it is 
scarce. We must defend the Grand Canyon’s sacred waters from 
unconscionable loss.

Mark Udall, who represented Colorado as a Democrat in the Senate from 
2009 to 2015, is a member of the board of the Grand Canyon Trust.

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