October 22, 2012

Grand Canyon in the Crosshairs

Arizona has become ground zero for the ideological fight against public lands and national parks during the 2012 election.  This is due to a combination of factors, including a Senate race featuring a former uranium industry lobbyist who has led the fight to mine around the Grand Canyon, a state ballot measure that would turn all federal public lands over to the state, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s energy plan that would make it easier to mine and drill on public lands.
First, the Grand Canyon has played an important role in the Arizona Senate race between Richard Carmona (D) and Jeff Flake (R).  Flake has led the fight in Congress to roll back a ban on new uranium mining around the canyon, and at one point his efforts were referred to as “the Flake earmark for the mining industry.”
Just this past Saturday, Flake — who was once a lobbyist for an African uranium mine with ties to Iran — continued to attack the Grand Canyon, and referred to the lands around it as “prime mining lands” when he gave the weekly Republican address.
Additionally, Proposition 120 will be on Arizona’s ballot on November 6th.  This measure would add language to the state constitution, giving Arizona “sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction” over natural resources within its boundaries including air, water, wildlife, and public lands (including the Grand Canyon).  It would also, according to legislative analysis, “repeal Arizona’s disclaimer of all right and title to public lands within the state,” an action which one legal expert says is “almost certainly unconstitutional.”
Lastly, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s energy plan could prove disastrous for the Grand Canyon and other public lands across America.  One of the key components of his plan is turning decisions about energy development on public lands over to the states.  This is problematic because, as the New York Times put it, “state, as a rule, tend to be interestedmainly in resource development.”
The Romney energy plan would mean that the state of Arizona would decide whether or not to permit uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.

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