Tribal Leaders Back Bill That Would Create Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument

Oct 13, 2015

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva plans to introduce a bill that would establish a Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. At a press conference yesterday, he was joined by tribal leaders who say it would protect cultural resources and outlaw uranium mining in the area. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

Rep. Raul Grijalva speaks Monday at a press conference announcing a bill that would create the 1.7-million-acre Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. Tribal leaders stand behind him (from left): Havasupai storyteller James Uqualla, Hopi Chairman Alfred Lomahquahu, Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez and President Russell Begaye, and Havasupai councilwoman Carletta Tilousi.
Credit Blake McCord/Courtesy of the Grand Canyon Trust

More than half the land proposed for the 1.7-million-acre monument is temporarily off limits to new uranium mining claims. Representatives of the Navajo, Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai tribes say the ban should be permanent in the Grand Canyon area.

Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez says past uranium mining has caused high rates of cancer in some areas of the Navajo Nation.

“We stand firm in saying ‘No, no, no.’ No more uranium. We have suffered a long history of uranium health effects throughout Navajo,” Nez says.

Nez also says designating the area surrounding the Grand Canyon as a monument would protect sacred sites as well as water and cultural resources.

Many Republicans and the mining industry are fighting the proposal. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has also voiced its opposition. The agency says a national monument would be unnecessary and add regulatory burden to wildlife and recreation management.

Congressman Raul Grijalva says if his bill fails in Congress, he’ll lobby President Obama to declare the national monument by using presidential authority given under the Antiquities Act.