Biden to designate new Grand Canyon national monument

President Biden will designate lands just outside Grand Canyon National Park a national monument, the fifth of his presidency, White House officials have confirmed.

The president will make the announcement Tuesday as part of a visit to Arizona, senior Biden administration officials confirmed on a call with reporters. 

The Obama administration in 2012 implemented a 20-year prohibition on any new uranium mining in the area; the new designation would make it permanent. A White House official confirmed the designation will not affect existing mineral rights on the site, and said it represents just over 1 percent of known uranium reserves in the U.S.

The designation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument has long been sought by Native American tribes who hold the area sacred. It has also been a major ask among state and federal lawmakers. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Az.) and House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-Az.) joined tribal leaders in a letter in April calling for the designation.

Last week, Grijalva also pointed to polling, commissioned by an organization that supports the designation, which indicated a majority of Arizonans support the national monument. 

Tribal leaders had called for the designation of about 1.1 million acres, but officials confirmed the full designation would be 917,000, saying some of the land falls outside federal jurisdiction and that Biden’s authority under the Antiquities Act allows for the designation of the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” However, they also confirmed the entire area covered by the Obama designation will remain closed to new mining.

Officials on the call touted the administration’s record on conservation, noting his restoration of protections for 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska as well as protections for Alaska’s Bristol Bay and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters.

But the administration also came under fire this year after approving the Willow Project, a massive oil drilling project in Alaska, following intense lobbying from state officials and Alaska’s congressional delegation.  

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