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Biden Establishes Grand Canyon Tribal Lands as a National Monument

President Biden has designated a national monument in Arizona that will protect almost 1 million acres of sacred tribal land in the Grand Canyon from uranium mining. The establishment of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni-Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument aligns with Biden’s conservation goals and his commitment to protecting indigenous peoples and their lands.

The name of the monument reflects its significance in indigenous languages. “Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni” means “where Indigenous peoples roam” in the Havasupai language, and “i’tah kukveni” means “our ancestral footprints” in the Hopi language.

The Havasupai tribe, who reside in the Grand Canyon, has been advocating for the protection of their lands against uranium mining due to the potential harm it could cause to their ancestral home and the Colorado River watershed. They have stated on their website that uranium mining has disproportionately affected and harmed Indigenous people in northern Arizona.

While there is currently no active uranium mining near the site, the tribe is concerned about future encroachment as the world increasingly relies on nuclear power and other carbon emission-free energy sources.

Former President Barack Obama had implemented a temporary ban on uranium mining in the area, but it was set to expire in 2032. The current administration is now permanently blocking mining in the designated area.

This is the fifth national monument created by President Biden. However, there has been some opposition to the designation. Energy Fuels Resources, which owns the only uranium mine in development in the Grand Canyon, argues that it is essential not to limit U.S. uranium production, considering the reliance on Russia and former Soviet republics for a significant portion of U.S. nuclear fuel. The company also claims that modern uranium mining can be done responsibly without harming the Grand Canyon.

In addition to establishing the national monument, President Biden is undertaking a three-state trip that includes New Mexico and Utah. During this trip, Biden aims to highlight his policy achievements, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, which heavily invests in green initiatives, and appeal to key constituencies, including American Indians, military veterans, and young people concerned about climate change.

Environmental advocates expressed disappointment when President Biden allowed the Willow drilling project in Alaska to proceed. A recent poll conducted by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland found that 57% of Americans disapprove of his handling of climate change. However, the White House remains confident in President Biden’s position.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted that polls do not tell the whole story and that the president’s standing is stronger now compared to the midterms.

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