A national monument was established in Arizona on Tuesday, and Joe Biden signed it alongside a few Indigenous leaders and lawmakers who have been advocating for the land’s long-term preservation.
The president declared on Tuesday that The Grand Canyon is the most magnificent national treasure, and he believes it’s not exaggerated.
The event was attended by Democrats Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, Congressman Ral Grijalva, and US senator Kyrsten Sinema, who have lobbied for environmental safeguards in the region.
At the ceremony, Joe Biden, Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), and Brenda Mallory, the 12th Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, were present.
After years of lobbying by tribal leaders and local environmentalists, the new designation of “nearly a million acres” was ultimately achieved as it would not only damage the Colorado River watershed but also adversely affect important cultural sites.
The Grand Canyon’s Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni features the Colorado River’ crest, which is also the habitat of the endangered California condor and the home of various tribes. For the Havasupai tribe, it means “where tribemen roam,” while for the Hopi tribal, its name I ‘takum” signifies “our footprints.”
Biden stated that the establishment of Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument is a solemn act to honor our vow to Tribal Nations’ sovereignty, safeguard America’s iconic landscapes for future generations, and reinforce my pledge to protect and conserve at least 30% of our land and waters in the United States by 2030.
The Obama administration had stopped the development of new mining on federal land in the area in 2012, but the protections are set to expire by 2023. The new designation would provide permanent protection to the region. However, mining industry officials have stated that they will attempt to appeal the ruling.
Stephanie Smith, from the Grand Canyon Trust, provided a photo of the grand canyon national monument.
In an effort to decrease the US’s reliance on Russian imports, Congress is exploring the possibility of passing new laws to increase national uranium production and enrichment.
Advocates for the new national landmark have consistently maintained that the area’s uranium reserves are only worth 1%, and it should not be ceded out for energy independence.
US Interior secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous American in the US Cabinet, stated on a press conference that tribal leaders had worked tirelessly for decades to protect sacred places and restore their connections to these lands, with the backing of members of Congress and community leaders.
The national monument designation, as per Haaland, will not only address past injustices but also strengthen the bond between Tribal Nations and the US government.
The preservation of the Grand Canyon region against extraction has been championed by Indigenous tribes. Earlier this year, the Biden administration designated the Avi Kwa Ame national monument in Nevada as a national landmark to safeguard Native history, which is unfortunate for wind and solar power companies planning to expand into the area.
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Biden has restored and expanded protections for Bears Ears national monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante national Monument in Utah, which includes the ancestral land of the Navajo Nation, Hopi tribe, Ute Indian tribe (Utez), and Zuni Pueblo, after the Trump administration opened the area to drilling and mining. Additionally, he implemented a 20-year moratorium on drilling near Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, an ancient Native American territory that is now protected.
Biden signs a proclamation to establish the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon national monument in Tusayan, Arizona while people hold their phones up.
During the call with reporters, Brenda Mallory, the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, highlighted the significant amount of money being spent on climate investments through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which the Biden administration has identified as a historic milestone and is now approaching its one-year period.
The designation has been met with opposition from lobbying groups and Republicans, who argue that it is an overreach of the federal government and harms the US economy.
According to Politico, Republican representatives Bruce Westerman and Paul Gosar launched an investigation on Tuesday against Biden and the federal agencies responsible for the monument creation, accusing them of using the Antiquities Act as a means of temporarily withdrawing the richest and most-grade uranium deposits from mining.
In response to Republican-led criticisms of the monument, Biden emphasized the importance of learning more about our nation’s history and not just what we have.