KINGMAN — The U.S. congressman representing Mohave County held a public hearing Monday against a proposal to protect more than 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon.
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, heard testimony in Kingman from local and state groups about the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. The proposed monument would protect 1.7 million acres near the Grand Canyon National Park in Northern Arizona from uranium mining. Much of that land is in Mohave County in the Arizona Strip.
In November, Gosar introduced legislation, HR-3946, which would update the 1906 Antiquities Act and would protect property and water rights and jobs from presidential abuse. The Republican congressman from Prescott also said that there is no evidence that uranium mining has a negative impact to the water, air or the environment.
Mohave Electric Cooperative Chief Executive Officer Tyler Carlson said the 1906 Antiquities Act needed to be updated to reflect the needs of 2016. The 100-year-old act was originally designated for the smallest area to preserve and protect objects. He said designating public lands as a national monuments reduces right-of-way access for utility lines, which would have a negative economic impact.
Arizona Game and Fish Commission Chair Kurt Davis said the monument would negatively impact AG&F’s ability to manage the lands, restrict recreational use, be devastating to water resources and damage rural economies by restricting public access to the lands. He also said wildlife is worse off with public lands being designated as national monuments and there would be an increase chance for a catastrophic wildfire.
Sierra Club Chapter Director Sandy Bahr said the lands around the Grand Canyon are part of its watershed and are already public lands, national forests and BLM lands. The national monument declaration would protect this area from future uranium mining and protect wildlife habitat and the remaining old-growth ponderosa pines.
“This is not a land grab, unless you think protecting public lands for the public and for future generations is a land grab,” Bahr said.
Bahr also said it is a myth by saying the act would restrict the use of the land by cattlemen, sportsman and the recreating public. In fact, the proposed monument allows for grazing, recreation, hunting, fishing and motorized access to continue, Bahr said.
Decisions would also continue to be made in an open and public process in cooperation with state agencies, tribes and hunters or anglers. Language on the proposal protects existing state, tribal and private water rights. It would also allow the cutting and removal of timber within the monument, Bahr said.
American Clean Energy Resources Trust Executive Director Pamela Hill said there was a bipartisan comprise that would allow uranium mining in Northern Arizona but the national monument would ban mining and would cause the loss of hundreds of high-paying uranium mining jobs.
The area in Northern Mohave County has one of the largest deposits of uranium ore and would supply clean energy to millions of customers for 40 years, Hill said. Hill also called U.S. Rep Ann Kirkpatrick D-Arizona “deluded” for calling the monument a win-win for Arizona. ACERT is a lobbying group for uranium mining.
Mike Schroder and Dwight Kadar of Arizona Liberty out of Sedona both spoke of the decrease in recreation activities, restriction of property and water rights and restriction of economic opportunities. National monument rules have more government regulations than other public lands. Schroder said that federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes pays counties 62 cent per acre where the average property tax revenue of private land is $50 an acre.
The U.S. Geological Survey previously stated that uranium mining could impact the environment of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River watershed. Increased levels of radioactive materials and heavy metals could flow into the Grand Canyon and downstream into the Colorado River.
Elevated levels of uranium has been found in springs in areas where there has been uranium mining. Horn Creek is still contaminated by low levels of radiation from the Orphan Mine, which closed in 1969, in the Grand Canyon.