Pew ad signed by Redford, Norton calls on Obama to extend Grand Canyon mining ban

(Image: Michael Quinn, NPS/Flickr)

A new ad from the Pew Environment Group taglined “Don’t Undermine the Grand Canyon” calls on President Barack Obama to extend a one-million-acre mining ban around Grand Canyon National Park for the next 20 years.

Robert Redford
Running this week in the New York Times (pdf), the ad is signed by actors Robert Redford and Ed Norton, filmmaker Ken Burns, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Theodore Roosevelt IV, direct descendant of the president who helped found the national park system

A moratorium on mining within a million acres of the iconic Grand Canyon was imposed by current Interior Secretary and former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar in 2009, but that ban is set to expire in July. The Obama administration is expected to make a decision on extending the ban this month.

“This is an important opportunity for President Obama to exercise visionary leadership in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt,” said Jane Danowitz, the Pew Environment Group’s director of U.S. public lands. “At this defining moment, we urge the president to make no further delays and to stand by his administration’s initial recommendation to give this special place the full protection it deserves.”

A Pew Environment report issued last month found that mining claims around Grand Canyon National Park increased 2,000 percent between 2005 and 2010. Many of the claims – mostly for uranium mining – were made by foreign firms, including Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, Rosatom.

Critics claim foreign companies are taking advantage of the antiquated 1872 Mining Law, which provides for no royalty payments to federal or state governments for mining on public lands despite major taxpayer exposure in cleanup operations. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has previously floated legislation to require royalties, and a bill was introduced this session in the House.