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Representative Paul Gosar's Misguided and Misleading Opposition to the Proposed Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument

Sedona, AZ: In April of this year, Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) held what he cleverly described as a “public listening session” to solicit input regarding proposed legislation to establish the 1.7 million acre Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument. What the “listening session” really amounted to was an artfully crafted and well-orchestrated series of anti-national monument presentations by invited special interest groups to discredit the proposed legislation as nothing more than a “Federal land grab.” Gosar had quite a line-up of special interests making presentations, including representatives of organizations from the mining, ranching, and electric utility industries, many of who have donated to Gosar’s campaigns (Gosar campaign contributions can be found here http://bit.ly/2aQCMd6).

Also included in the mix were Republican state legislators and local officials, including officials from the dinky Town of Tusayan, just outside the entrance to the Grand Canyon. The Town of Tusayan has grandiose plans to develop massive commercial developments near the Grand Canyon that will potentially threaten the ground water feeding its springs.

Kelly Shaw Norton 500x459Kelly Shaw-Norton, left, President of the Arizona Mining Association, with Representative Paul Gosar.Gosar depicted the outcome of the listening session as: “Resounding comments from small business owners, sportsmen, farmers, ranchers, elected officials and many other stakeholders made clear that Arizonans adamantly oppose another massive land grab from the Obama Administration. Witnesses at this event were unanimous in rejecting use of the Antiquities Act to create a new 1.7 million acre national monument in a watershed in northern Arizona. Substantive testimony confirmed that this misguided special-interest proposal will kill jobs, prevent mining, retire grazing permits, close roads to OHV users, reduce access for sportsmen, steal water rights and harm 4FRI. I call on the White House to listen to the people of Arizona and reject this misguided land grab put forth by environmental extremists with an agenda.”

More accurately, the Gosar “listening session” was a collection of a select group of special interests who are opposed to the establishment of a national monument because it means that they will not be able to financially capitalize from their use of the public lands (Gosar website discussion of the “listening session” can be found here http://bit.ly/1WwbuJ8)

This is not a federal land grab. Essentially, almost all of the proposed national monument is already federal land and each and every one if us, as citizens of the United States, have our names on the title for all of those lands. But if Gosar has his way, a select group of special interests would essentially be able to take these lands away from public use so that they can be used for their own personal and financial benefit in ways that threaten the environment as well as many of the cultural assets in the area.

Kelly Shaw-Norton, President of the Arizona Mining Association testified: “The Antiquities Act was intended as a tool to set aside ‘the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.’ It was not meant to be used for expansive amounts of land without public input and Congressional approval.”

Harold Roberts 500x485Representative Paul Gosar with Harold Roberts, Executive Vice President of Conventional Operations for Energy Fuels Resources Inc.Gosar gives us all the impression that the majority of Arizonans are opposed to the establishment of the national monument. However, this is far from the truth, and two different polls, conducted earlier in the year showed strong support for the monument.

Two months prior to Gosar’s “listening session,” a poll sanctioned by the Grand Canyon Trust revealed that eighty percent of likely 2016 Arizona voters approved of a statewide plan for a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument exceeding 1 million acres and banning new uranium mines. According to an article in the Arizona Republic, the support included 95 percent of Democrats polled, 84 percent of independents and 65 percent of Republicans. More than half (58 percent) of the respondents said they "strongly" supported a monument.

"That's a very broad and strongly felt endorsement that we're getting from Arizona voters," said Dave Metz of the polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates that conducted the poll. The poll of 500 likely voters was taken January 14-17, 2016. Metz reported a margin of error of 4.4 percent. The polling firm typically works for Democrats; however, another poll earlier in 2016, conducted by a different firm that collaborated with a Republican pollster, found 73 percent support for the monument plan among Arizona voters.

The legislation to establish the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument was introduced in November 2015 by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). The monument is proposed to accomplish three goals: (a) protect 1.7 million acres of tribal homeland around the Grand Canyon, including water sources and sacred sites, (b) ban new uranium mining claims making the current 20-year ban permanent, and (c) continue to allow hunting, grazing, recreation, and other uses that are permitted under existing law.

Harold Roberts, Executive Vice President of Conventional Operations for Energy Fuels Resources Inc., gave testimony on what he believes to be the negative impact a national monument designation would have on his company’s uranium mining operations around the Grand Canyon. His Canadian-based company owns and operates many of the uranium mining operations around the Grand Canyon that ship uranium ore around the world.

uranium mine operating at grand canyonUranium mine currently operating just 6 miles from the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Curiously, the Gosar website that reports on the “listening session” does not mention the national monument bill by name nor does it provide a link to the actual proposed legislation (actual proposed legislation can be found here http://bit.ly/2awyg2D). If the bill had been available for review, visitors to the website would see that, counter to the claims of Gosar, the bill does not interfere with most of the uses currently permitted. But what it does prohibit is mining activities, in particular uranium mining. It permanently withdraws from all mining the 1.7 million acres covered by the act, and makes permanent the 2012 temporary withdrawal by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar from mining activities of lands around the Grand Canyon. Clearly, uranium mining is really at the heart of the issue of Gosar’s opposition to the establishment of the monument.

Photo: Craig Wiita, President of Wiita Mining and Exploration, shaking hands with Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) at the “Listening Session.” Wiita testified on the need to reform the Antiquities Act to limit presidential powers to establish national monuments.

Gosar’s claim that the proposed national monument is a “Federal land grab” is grossly inaccurate. The majority of the land included in the national monument boundaries is already federal land, and those lands belong to all of us as citizens of the United States. If Gosar get his way, he would turn those lands over to special interests such as foreign mining companies, the utilities, ranching and grazing interests, and developers.

Coming Next: Visit to the perimeter of a Canadian-owned, currently operating uranium mine shows above background radiation readings.

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