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Game and Fish Questions Sierra Club Claim Linking Uranium to Condor Deaths

San Diego Zoo

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is calling on the Sierra Club to retract a recent fundraising letter. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the agency says the group made false claims that uranium mining poses a threat to endangered California condors.

The email from Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune claims any expansion of uranium mining near the Grand Canyon could cause the bird’s extinction.

But biologists with Game and Fish, the Condor Reintroduction Project, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, say there’s no peer-reviewed science that shows such a link. In addition, they say uranium poisoning hasn’t caused a single condor death since the bird’s reintroduction.

There’s a moratorium on new uranium mines near the Grand Canyon until 2032, and Game and Fishsays the Sierra Club’s letter is a misrepresentation of the facts.

The U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies have identified uranium as a potential threat to condors, but no specific studies have been conducted. Lead poisoning remains the biggest killer of California condors in the wild.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.