By Cindy McCain and Mark Udall | The Washington Post
(Editor’s note:Opinion pieces are published for discussions purposes only.)
Every year, Americans of all political persuasions make pilgrimages to Grand Canyon National Park, which will mark its 100th anniversary on Feb. 26. They stand in awe at the rim of this natural wonder, grateful for the forebears who preserved it for generations – and, for the most part, unaware that the Grand Canyon isn’t nearly as protected as people think it is.
The clock is ticking on a 20-year ban on new mining claims on about 1 million acres of public land surrounding the national park. Thousands of uranium claims were put on hold in 2012 because of mounting evidence that uranium mining in the headwaters of Grand Canyon creeks can contaminate life-giving seeps and springs in the desert basins below.
After examining evidence of harmful effects, five federal agencies recommended the temporary halt to new uranium claims. Ken Salazar, then the interior secretary, said his precautionary decision would allow more time to assess the impacts of active and abandoned mines, adding, “We have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations.”
This week , the Senate voted 92 to 8 to approve the Natural Resources Management Act. Among other things, it protects Yellowstone National Park from mining on adjacent public lands.