National Defense Authorization Act is a welcome victory for the Havasupai Tribe
The Havasupai Tribe has long stood in opposition to uranium mining at the Grand Canyon. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was amended on July 21, 2020 now includes the Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva’s (D-AZ) Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, Representative Joe Neguse’s (D-CO.) Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, and Representative Diana DeGette’s (D-CO) Protecting America’s Wilderness Act, is a victory for the Tribe and others who are equally as concerned about the impact mining will have.
While the Havasupai Tribe did not take a position on the National Defense Authorization Act, according to Chairwoman Evangeline Kissoon, the Tribe strongly supported Amendment #8 be added to the National Defense Authorization Act which included the language for the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act (GCPPA).
The Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act will make permanent the current 20-year ban on uranium mining for one million acres of federal public land adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park and the Havasupai Tribal lands.
“Our Tribe depends on water for our livelihood, continued existence, and cultural identity,” said Chairwoman Kissoon. “Contamination of our limited water supply would force us into an impossible dilemma: stay on our homelands in the Canyon and become sick or leave our home and abandon our traditional way of life.”
The ongoing support from Representative Grijalva is well-documented. He has pursued Grand Canyon protections for more than a decade, first introducing the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act in 2008 – years before Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s 2012 establishment of a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining claims around the Grand Canyon. The House passed the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act as a standalone bill on Oct. 30, 2019.
In a news release issued earlier yesterday, “Defense bills can and should be conservation bills, and this year’s National Defense Authorization Act is an especially good example of the good we can do for our environment when we work together and think strategically about the nation’s interest,” Representative Grijalva said. “Protecting our country means protecting it from the impacts of climate change. It means protecting our water supply and our access to natural space. This bill accomplishes those national security goals, and I intend to vote for it.”
The Havasupai Tribe has long sought a permanent moratorium in order to eliminate the threat that uranium mining near the Canyon poses to its reservation community, which relies upon the aquifers below the moratorium area. The aquifers feed Havasu Creek and the seeps and springs on the reservation, which serve as the sole sources of water for the Tribe and are of great cultural importance to the Havasupai people.
“With the support from Representative Grijalva, Representative O’Halleran and Colorado’s representatives in addition to other members of the House, we will continue this fight to protect our homeland,” said Chairwoman Kissoon.