President Joe Biden coming to Grand Canyon for this week’s Arizona visit
Aug 7, 2023, 7:45 AM | Updated: 1:55 pm
PHOENIX — President Joe Biden is stopping at the Grand Canyon to start this week’s swing through three western states.
He is due to arrive in northern Arizona on Monday night and speak Tuesday about his administration’s conservation and climate resilience policies.
The White House hasn’t released specifics about what the president will discuss, but it reportedly will be related to efforts to designate a new national monument on more than 1 million acres of land adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park.
Tribes in Arizona have been pushing Biden to use his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create a new national monument called Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni. “Baaj Nwaavjo” means “where tribes roam,” for the Havasupai people, while “I’tah Kukveni” translates to “our footprints,” for the Hopi tribe.
Tribes and environmentalists for decades have been trying to safeguard the land north and south of Grand Canyon National Park, while Republican lawmakers and the mining industry tout the economic benefits and raise mining as a matter of national security.
Representatives of various northern Arizona tribes have been invited to attend the president’s remarks. Havasupai Tribal Councilwoman Dianna Sue White Dove Uqualla is part of a group of tribal dancers who will perform a blessing.
“It’s really the uranium we don’t want coming out of the ground because it’s going to affect everything around us — the trees, the land, the animals, the people,” said Uqualla. “It’s not going to stop.”
In 2017, Democratic President Barack Obama backed off a full-on monument designation. The idea faced a hostile reception from Arizona’s Republican governor and two senators. Then-Gov. Doug Ducey threatened legal action, saying Arizona already has enough national monuments.
Opponents of establishing a monument have argued it won’t help combat a lingering drought and could prevent thinning of forests and stop hunters from keeping wildlife populations in check. Ranchers in Utah near the Arizona border say the monument designation would strip them of privately owned land.
The landscape of Arizona’s political delegation has since changed considerably. Gov. Katie Hobbs, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent, are all on board.
Last month, Rep. Raúl Grijalva and Sinema introduced legislation to direct the specifics of monument. Democratic Reps. Greg Stanton and Ruben Gallego cosponsored the House bill, and Kelly cosponsored the Senate version.
“We would like to thank Sen. Sinema and Rep. Grijalva for their leadership in promoting this important initiative,” Navajo Nation President Dr. Buu Nygren said in a July 18 press release.” The Navajo Nation knows from personal experience the risks of uranium mining, and a monument designation for the Greater Grand Canyon area will protect this sacred landscape from the potential hazards of opening new uranium mines in the region.”
In May, Hobbs wrote a letter to the Biden administration in support of the monument.
This week’s trip is Biden’s second to Arizona since he became president. The first came in December 2022, when he visited the construction site of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. microchip plant in Phoenix.
He will also appear New Mexico and Utah this week before returning to Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.