Jane Danowitz, U.S. public lands program director at the Pew Environment Group, today issued the following statement on a decision by U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to protect roughly 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims. The action halts claimstaking under the nation's 1872 mining law that allows corporations and individuals “free and open access” to more than 350 million acres of public lands across the West. The withdrawal, called for by the House Natural Resources Committee along with Pew and other conservation groups, is a response to federal data that show thousands of mining claims within five miles of Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Arches and other national parks.
“This decisive action to protect the Grand Canyon sends an important signal that President Obama is committed to prioritizing the public interest when it comes to managing America's natural resources.
“We commend Secretary Salazar for moving quickly to protect this timeless treasure, which presidents since Theodore Roosevelt have recognized must be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
“We are pleased that the Obama administration has encouraged Congress to protect our national parks and other special places by modernizing the country's 1872 mining law. Clearly a law that is powerless to prevent mining just outside one of the most iconic treasures in the world needs to be reformed.”