Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today introduced six bills focused on the management, conservation, and long-term stewardship of federal land in Arizona and throughout the country. The package includes proposals to enhance the already successful Public Land Corps, protect the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, and enhance and modify protections for certain public lands across Southern Arizona.
Separately from today's package, Grijalva introduced the Southern Arizona Public Lands Protection Act last week to withdraw certain public lands in Pima and Santa Cruz counties from new mining claims.
He also spoke today in committee against the proposed land and minerals giveaway commonly known as the Resolution Copper deal. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) recently introduced the misnamed Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act (HR 687) to transfer public land in central Arizona to Resolution Copper, which would mine valuable deposits and export them to the highest international bidder without paying any federal royalty to taxpayers.
San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler testified at the hearing on behalf of his and every other federally recognized tribe in Arizona on the importance of protecting sacred sites and tribal sovereignty. By requiring compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act only after the proposed land trade has taken place, HR 687 provides no guarantee that meaningful consultation will take place between the tribe and the Forest Service or other federal authorities.
Also today, Grijalva highlighted yesterday's ruling by U.S. District Judge David Campbell denying a uranium industry motion to overturn the Obama administration's ban on new uranium mining claims on 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon. The ban was adopted in January of 2012, when Rep. Grijalva joined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at an event at the Grand Canyon to announce the land would be protected for the next 20 years.
"My bills, today's hearing, and yesterday's ruling are all about the same issue: how we choose to handle our valuable natural heritage," Grijalva said. "The House majority's anti-conservation agenda has only gotten worse over the years. I join many others in this fight in speaking up for the taxpayer even if Republicans won't. While they stay fixated on giving taxpayer land away to the highest bidder, we're working to preserve the greater economic and ecological benefits these lands provide Arizonans when they're protected for the future."
The Outdoor Industry Association estimated earlier this month that outdoor recreation generates $10.6 billion in consumer spending in Arizona each year and supports 104,000 jobs across the state.
"Arizonans don't have to be told about the importance of protecting our public lands," Grijalva said. "We can give our public resources away until they're gone, or we can maintain an Arizona that's beautiful, successful and prosperous for the long term. My bills choose the latter, and so does the public."
A February poll released by Colorado College found that 82 percent of Arizonans recognize the central role of public lands in the state's economy. The same poll also found that 58 percent of Arizonans call themselves conservationists.