Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today called the House version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a significant victory for environmental conservation thanks to the inclusion of his Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, Rep. Joe Neguse’s (D-Colo.) Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act and Rep. Diana DeGette’s (D-Colo.) Protecting America’s Wilderness Act. The House voted to include all three measures as amendments, after which Grijalva said he would vote for the overall bill.
“Defense bills can and should be conservation bills, and this year’s NDAA 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,” 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.”
Grijalva 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.
Rep. DeGette’s bill is a collection of six previously separate bills, which together protect 1.37 million acres of wilderness in three states. Rep. Neguse’s bill preserves approximately 400,000 acres around the state of Colorado, including 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas and a first-of-its-kind National Historic Landscape to honor Colorado’s unique military training legacy at Camp Hale.
Grijalva highlighted the measures’ bipartisan nature, which he said should help increase their chances of being included in the final NDAA version following a conference with the Senate. He pointed to the lack of Senate action so far on the standalone measures and said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.Ky.) should consider this year’s NDAA an opportunity to back up Republican rhetoric about caring for the environment.
The Trump administration released a plan in April based on the recommendations of the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, made up of Trump administration officials, to create a needless $1.5 billion national uranium stockpile in the coming years and weaken uranium mining standards in an attempt to prop up the market for a fuel source that faces low demand. The plan would put the Grand Canyon squarely in the crosshairs of uranium mining companies looking to capitalize on a sudden influx of federal government handouts and less stringent environmental standards.
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