Tag Archives: Bureau Of Land Management

10/27/2011 Gallup Independent: The Grand Canyon – Protection of areas near national park from uranium mining a step closer

10/27/2011 The Grand Canyon – Protection of areas near national park from uranium mining a step closer By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent:  WINDOW ROCK – The Obama administration took a critical step Wednesday toward protecting more than a million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park from mineral exploration and new uranium mining for the next 20 years.   The Bureau of Land Management released the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Northern Arizona Proposed Withdrawal which identifies the preferred alternative of withdrawing about 1 million acres from new mining claims under the 1872 Mining Law, subject to valid existing rights.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is expected to formally finalize Wednesday’s decision in 30 days.

“Uranium remains an important part of our nation’s comprehensive energy resources, but it is appropriate to pause, identify what the predicted level of mining and its impacts on the Grand Canyon would be, and decide what level of risk is acceptable to take with this national treasure,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said.

“The preferred alternative would allow for cautious, continued development with strong oversight that could help us fill critical gaps in our knowledge about water quality and environmental impacts of uranium mining in the area,” he said.

The Final EIS estimates that as many as 11 uranium mines could be operational over the next 20 years under the preferred alternative, including the four mines currently approved.

“It’s been a long struggle for us to preserve our homelands,” Carletta Tilousi said Wednesday evening. Tilousi, a member of the Havasupai Tribal Council, lives in Supai Village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. She also works with a group of Havasupai elders who have taken the lead to protect the Grand Canyon and sacred places.

“I’ve watched my elders travel in and out of the canyon to come to these public meetings and voice their opinions,” she said.  “In my community it’s really been the traditional elders and the traditional practitioners that have really taken the lead to stand up in front of the federal officials and learn about the EIS and the BLM process and the Forest Service process.

“I’m very, very surprised, and at the same time I’m very happy that the government is finally listening to my people after many years. It’s really the elders’ victory. With the support of the Council they have been able to succeed in preserving it.”

Tilousi said cancer rates have risen in their small community, something she attributes to the federal government’s above-ground atomic testing at Nevada Test Site.

“We were downwinders of that and I have noticed that a lot of my people are coming face to face and battling cancer. It’s just another struggle from uranium mining and the nuclear industry that’s taken many lives from my community and the neighboring tribes. If the U.S. government really wants to preserve human life, I think this is the right thing to do – a million acres be put aside for preservation. No one wants to lose life over profit,” she said.

The Arizona 1 mine is 15 miles northwest of the village. Another mine is located 25 miles away as the crow flies, right above their watershed, Havasu Creek, she said. “That’s the river that we sustain ourselves with down in Supai Canyon.” Tribal members are conducting ongoing water testing to monitor for heavy metals.

“We’ve learned so much from the Navajo people and their challenges, that we really stood up against this. Since 1984 this has been an issue that my tribe’s been fighting,” she said. “It’s just been a lifelong struggle for me. When uranium was first brought up, I was probably 13 years old. Now I’m 41. When I watch my elders, all the challenges and fights that they’ve been through, it’s inevitable that I’m going to be old and still continuing this work.”

The Navajo Nation submitted comments in May through Navajo Environmental Protection Agency Executive Director Stephen B. Etsitty and David Taylor from the Department of Justice, in support of the preferred alternative.

The Nation also said that if the Interior intends to allow for limited uranium mining and milling where valid existing rights are found, then it must be willing to provide adequate resources and technical support to the Navajo Nation for improved emergency planning and response capabilities to address any potential releases of hazardous and radioactive substances along transport routes, especially any that traverse the Navajo Nation.

In addition, Navajo requested enhanced government-to-government consultation on any subsequent federal decisions that could impact Navajo Nation resources, as well as enhanced federal policy implementation supporting the role of the Navajo Nation in any subsequent decisions the state of Arizona may make regarding uranium mining and processing.

Tilousi said one of her main concerns with the operating mine approximately 15 miles away on the North Rim is radioactive particles being carried on the prevailing wind at 30 to 40 miles per hour.

“It’s coming our direction and it’s coming through the air. People can’t see it or smell it or touch it, but I know, I sense that it’s coming through. That’s the scariest part. You don’t know how it’s affecting you until way later. And then it’s too late.”

Conservation groups commended Salazar and the Obama administration for the decision to protect public lands.

“The Grand Canyon is an international icon, a biodiversity hot spot and a huge economic engine for the Southwest,” Taylor McKinnon, public-lands campaigns director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “Protecting it from uranium mining pollution is the right thing to do.”

Information: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/mining/timeout.html

10/12/2011 The GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining

10/12/2011 The GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining: By FELICIA FONSECA The Salt Lake Tribune, The Associated Press: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. • A group of Republican lawmakers is renewing an effort to open up 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon to new mining claims. Legislation announced Wednesday would prevent the Interior Department from extending a temporary ban on the filing of new mining claims that expires in December. The group said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s intention to set aside the land for 20 years would eliminate hundreds of potential jobs, create a de-facto wilderness area and unravel decades of responsible resource development.

“At a time when we are desperate for jobs and economic growth, this administration continues to do everything in its power to implement the job-killing policies of fringe environmental groups,” said Arizona Rep. David Schweikert. “This withdrawal is not so much a protection of the Grand Canyon but a governmental land grab of economically fertile mining land.”

Salazar enacted a two-year ban in July 2009 but extended it by six months earlier this year to give the U.S. Bureau of Land Management more time to study the economic and environmental effects of mining. Interior officials said Wednesday that any claims about jobs losses are false.

Should any of the land be withdrawn, mining companies would need to prove they have valid existing rights to those claims before mining could occur. According to the BLM’s draft environmental study, 11 mines could open over the next 20 years under Salazar’s proposal. Without a withdrawal, up to 30 mines could be developed. The difference in the number of jobs under the two scenarios would be 71, the BLM said.

Other proposals include withdrawing either 300,000 or 650,000 acres from any new claims. The final study is due out later this month.

“Interior is considering many factors in evaluating the issue, including the economic benefits of Grand Canyon National Park and the potential impacts on the park of expanding mining nearby,” said Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher.

Efforts in Congress to prohibit or allow mining on the same acreage have made little headway. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., added a rider to an Interior appropriations bill earlier this year to end the ban, and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., introduced legislation last year to keep Interior from withdrawing any land. The two were joined by the rest of Arizona’s Republican delegation, and lawmakers from other Western states in supporting the latest effort.

In a letter to Salazar, the lawmakers said they share in a desire to protect the Grand Canyon from adverse environmental impacts but don’t believe shutting out mining companies is the answer, particularly in an area known for high-grade uranium ore. They said a federal law that designated wilderness areas near the Grand Canyon provides a good balance for mining and resource protection.

McCain said a full withdrawal of the 1 million acres of federal land “will raise significant questions for future wilderness bills if agreements to accommodate responsible land uses are neither genuine nor enduring.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has been on the opposite side of the lawmakers, advocating for a permanent withdrawal of the land from new mining claims. A bill he sponsored to do just that routinely has stalled.

“Selling this as a jobs bill for the future and brushing the environmental damage under the rug isn’t going to fly with voters,” he said of the Republicans’ move. “The public overwhelmingly supported Secretary Salazar’s announcement during the comment period, and the public supports it today. This bill is a waste of taxpayers’ time, and I join them in looking forward to its defeat.”

7/30/2011 Phoenix Business Journal: Navajo, SRP wind farm prove Arizona not just a solar state

7/30/2011 Phoenix Business Journal: Navajo, SRP wind farm prove Arizona not just a solar state – by Patrick O’Grady: Arizona has lots of sun, but somehow when it comes to renewable energy, wind seems to be an afterthought. Except for the fact that wind companies seem to really like northern Arizona. This week’s announcement of a pending deal between the Navajo Tribal Authority, Edison Mission EnergybizWatch Edison Mission Energy Latest from The Business Journals RETA: Wind farms need transmission connectionsBuckhead CID chief leaving after 10 yearsMirant close to naming new CEO Follow this company and Salt River Project just keeps adding to it. The deal would have SRP buy wind power from the Navajo’s first project, a 85-megawatt facility named Boquillas Ranch to be built in the northeastern part of the state. The wind farm would be owned by the Navajo Nation.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the Navajo Nation, NTUA and Edison Mission Energy on this major new wind project in Arizona. The Boquillas Wind Project could be an important addition to SRP’s continuing pursuit of new renewable-energy resources,” said John Coggins, SRP’s manager of resource planning and development. “If agreed to, our customers will benefit from a wind resource with zero-fuel costs and zero emissions while the state and the Navajo Nation will benefit from the jobs needed to build and operate this facility in Arizona.”

The deal is still pending, but all three entities think it will come to fruition.

SRP has been a big believer in wind energy. The utility has 310 megawatts currently under contract or in production. That includes 127 megawatts at the Dry Lake Wind Project already producing power and another 99 megawatts at the Yavapai wind project that are still in planning.

The Navjo deal is about an average size wind farm for those coming on line in Arizona, and the state is in no danger of threatening Texas or Iowa for the leadership in wind energy. Still, for a state known mostly for its solar energy it is drawing attention from wind developers, for instance, has a plan for a potential 425-megawatt wind farm on public land in northern Arizona.

The Bureau of Land Management in Arizona, for instance, has eight pending projects on its list totaling more than 120,000 acres. That doesn’t include potential private-land projects such as the 99-megawatt NextEra Energy Resources plant near Williams that will supply power to Arizona Public Service Co. bizWatch

6/21/2011 Gallup Independent: Off Limits Interior protects 1 million Grand Canyon acres

6/21/2011 Gallup Independent: Off Limits Interior protects 1 million Grand Canyon acres By Kathy Helms Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Monday that he will make an emergency withdrawal for six months of approximately 1 million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon to protect it from new uranium mining claims while the Bureau of Land Management completes its study on a 20-year mineral withdrawal. Salazar made the announcement at the Mather Point Amphitheater in Grand Canyon National Park where he was joined by BLM Director Bob Abbey, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt. An order will be published in the Federal Register within the next week. A final Environmental Impact Statement that evaluates a preferred alternative of a 20-year mineral withdrawal on those same lands is expected to be released this fall. Salazar directed BLM to identify the full 1 million acre uranium withdrawal as the preferred alternative. But even if selected, it will not stop uranium mining in northern Arizona.

“Uranium, like oil and gas, solar, wind, geothermal, and other sources, remains a vital component of a responsible and comprehensive energy strategy. We will continue to develop uranium in northern Arizona, Wyoming and other places across the country,” he said.

There are possibly a number of valid existing rights in the proposed withdrawal area, according to Salazar, and he expects continued development of those claims and the establishment of new mines over the next 20 years.

“In fact, cautious development with strong oversight could help us answer critical questions about water quality and environmental impacts of uranium mining in the area. This science, derived from experience, would help others decide what actions are necessary to protect the Grand Canyon,” Salazar said.

The lands are within portions of the Grand Canyon watershed next to the park and contain vast archaeological resources and sites of spiritual and cultural importance to about a dozen American Indian tribes, among them Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Havasupai, Hualapai, San Juan Southern Paiute, and White Mountain Apache. The Colorado River corridor also is the location of traditional collection areas for plants and minerals, as well as contemporary prayer and offering places, traditional cultural properties and sacred sites.

Uranium mining activities on lands adjacent to the park could result in environmental and watershed contamination, according to a report by the National Parks Conservation Association. Potentially harmful materials from past mining activities are still present in parts of the park.

“Our ancestors could not have known that one day the Grand Canyon would attract more than 4 million visitors a year. That hunting, fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation would generate an estimated $3.5 billion in economic activity in this area. Or that millions of Americans living in cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles would rely on this river and this canyon for clean, healthy drinking water,” Salazar said.

“Like our ancestors, we do not know how future Americans will enjoy, experience, and benefit from this place. And that’s one of the many reasons why wisdom, caution, and science should guide our protection of the Grand Canyon. In this moment, we face a choice that could profoundly affect the Grand Canyon in ways we do not yet understand.”

Some of the lands near the Grand Canyon contain uranium resources that have helped meet America’s energy needs, he said. Over the last 20 years, eight uranium mines have operated in the area and one study has shown that an additional eight to 11 mines might be developed. “The question for us, though, is not whether to stop cautious and moderate uranium development, but whether to allow further expansion of uranium mining in the area,” Salazar said.

Monday’s announcement follows efforts by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., scientists, tribal and local government leaders, businesses and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens to secure protections for the region and its waters.

“This is a great day for the Grand Canyon, its wildlife and everyone in the Southwest who relies on the Colorado River for drinking water,” said Sandy Bahr, the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter director.

The emergency withdrawal, like the temporary segregation imposed by Salazar in July 2009, would prohibit the location of new hard rock mining claims under the 1872 Mining Law. However ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid preexisting claims could continue. The temporary segregation expires July 20.

Roger Clark, Air & Energy program director for Grand Canyon Trust, applauded Salazar’s announcement, Grijalva’s commitment to the long-term protection of Grand Canyon’s watersheds through legislation, and Havasupai elders for their lifelong opposition to uranium mining within their historic homeland.

“The Grand Canyon Trust is honored to join First Americans, congressman Grijalva, and Secretary Salazar in protecting our region’s water from contamination by uranium mining. The secretary said that water is the Grand Canyon’s and our arid region’s ‘lifeblood.’ We wholeheartedly agree,” Clark said.

At the time of the temporary segregation, 10,600 hard rock mining claims existed. Today, approximately 3,500 claims remain. The emergency withdrawal will help maintain the status quo until a final decision is made.

Information: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/mining/timeout.html