Tribes, Arizona politician ask Obama to protect nearly 2M acres at Grand Canyon

Apr 28, 2016, 10:16 AM | Updated: 10:20 am
(Cronkite News Photo/Sophia Kunthara)...
(Cronkite News Photo/Sophia Kunthara)
(Cronkite News Photo/Sophia Kunthara)

WASHINGTON – Tribal leaders joined Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, this week to urge President Barack Obama to designate 1.7 million acres around the Grand Canyon as a national monument, bypassing Congress in the process.

Grijalva said he was calling on the president to invoke the Antiquities Act after becoming convinced that his bill to create the same monument would not get “a real, honest, rational hearing” from a Republican-led House.

Grijalva cited opposition from Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, and Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, who he said were “on the wrong side of the angels on this one.”

None of those lawmakers could be reached for comment Tuesday on Grijalva’s remarks, but Gosar has been a blistering critic of the president’s use of the Antiquities Act.

After Obama invoked the act in February to create national monuments on about 1.8 million acres of federal land in California, Gosar wrote the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee demanding that they include language in the budget restricting the president’s ability to use that authority. That letter was signed by 30 House Republicans, including three others from Arizona.

“Presidents on either side of the aisle shouldn’t have unilateral authority to create massive new national monuments by executive fiat without local public input,” the letter stated. “It is, after all, the people living near these national monuments who are most affected by their creation.”

The proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act would protect 1.7 million acres in the canyon’s watershed, prohibiting mining and other natural resources development. It would make permanent a current 20-year moratorium on uranium mining that was imposed by the Interior Department.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson. (Cronkite News Photo/Jessica Swarner)

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson. (Cronkite News Photo/Jessica Swarner)

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson said he is concerned both by the mining ban, and by Grijalva’s attempt to get the president to use the Antiquities Act.

“I was always afraid this might happen,” Johnson said. “This act has been used before to skirt the public.”

Johnson said mining has the potential to add $29 billion to the economies of Mohave County and Washington County, Utah, and would provide better jobs than tourism could. A national monument designation would block these job opportunities and threaten public access to the federal lands, he said.

But Havasupai Tribe Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi, one of the tribal leaders who joined Grijalva at Tuesday’s news conference at the National Press Club, said the monument designation is vital because uranium mining could destroy her tribe’s land.

“We are nearing extinction,” Tilousi said. “We want my people to remain left alone from international mining companies.”

Tilousi said any money generated by mining likely would not help her tribe.

Johnson said the mining companies are more careful than that and would be sure to cause “very little disturbance” to the land.

But Coconino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Art Babbott said that while there would be an economic boost from uranium mining, the risks it poses are “not theoretical” and not worth taking. There would certainly be economic benefits from a monument designation, he said.

“I absolutely am a supporter of the objective and the outcomes that the legislation seeks to achieve,” said Babbott, who was careful to note that it was a personal position and not the official position of the board. “It’s in our economic interest, it’s in our environmental interest.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Arizona DPS Photo)...

2 suspects arrested after nearly 150 pounds of cocaine found during Arizona traffic stop

Two suspects were arrested after nearly 150 pounds of cocaine were recovered during a traffic stop in Arizona.
22 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Aaron Lieberman)...

Aaron Lieberman suspends campaign for governor of Arizona

Aaron Lieberman announced on Friday that he is suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor of Arizona.
22 hours ago
(File Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)...

43 alleged sexual predators arrested across Valley as part of undercover operation

Federal and local authorities teamed up to 43 arrests as part of an undercover operation targeting alleged sexual predators in metro Phoenix.
22 hours ago
Switchbacks for roads cut through three ridges in the area being worked for Hudbay Minerals Inc. in...
Associated Press

Tribal request to halt Arizona copper mine work is denied

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a request by Native American tribes to stop Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc. from preparing a planned new Arizona copper mine’s site in the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson. U.S. District Judge James Soto refused to issue a temporary restraining order and dismissed the lawsuit filed by […]
22 hours ago
(Arizona Department of Transportation File Photo)...

Traffic on highway between Phoenix and Payson delayed because of brush fire

Traffic on State Route 87 was delayed Friday afternoon because of a brush fire along the route between Phoenix and Payson.
22 hours ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Danny Shapiro

Phoenix temperatures expected to dip as Memorial Day weekend unfolds

After a toasty start, temperatures in metro Phoenix are expected to dip over the course of Memorial Day weekend, according to weather experts.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Christina O’Haver

Stroke month: Experts call attention to stroke prevention

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
Dr. Richard Carmona

Have you gotten your booster shot?

Do you remember when you got your last COVID-19 vaccination? If it has been more than five months since you completed your primary vaccination series, it’s time for you to get your booster. You may be eligible even sooner depending which vaccine you received. If you are over the age of 50 and received your […]
Tribes, Arizona politician ask Obama to protect nearly 2M acres at Grand Canyon