Salazar moves to block new mining claims near Grand Canyon

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today issued a notice of withdrawal of nearly 1 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land around the Grand Canyon from new mining claims for the next two years to allow for more study and analysis.

The move drew the praise of conservation groups such as the Pew Environment Group, which has been hammering on the antiquated 1872 mining law and the pressing need for reform in light of thousands of new mining claims for minerals such as uranium, copper and gold in and around some of the nation’s most treasured national parks.

“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,” Jane Danowitz, U.S. public lands program director at the Pew Environment Group, said in a release. “Clearly a law that is powerless to prevent mining just outside one of the most iconic treasures in the world needs to be reformed.”

Versions of hard-rock mining reform legislation are currently being considered in both the House and Senate. The EPA last week found mining is the dirtiest forms of industry on public lands and that it comes with the highest price tag to taxpayers in terms of cleanup costs.

Also on Monday, Pew announced a new Google Earth interactive project showing the extent to which national parks and other vacation destinations — including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone – are being encroached on by lightly regulated miningclaims. The project is called “Check out the View from Route 1872.”

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