Report Threatens Trout Unlimited’s Work to Protect the Grand Canyon from Uranium Mining

WASHINGTON D.C. (April 27, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Energy recently released the Nuclear Fuels Working Group’s (NFWG) report on its strategy to revive the industry and expand uranium mining, including streamlining “regulatory reform and land access for uranium extraction”. Hunters and anglers have questioned the necessity of the report and its definition of uranium as a “critical mineral” while continuing to advocate for the long-term protection of the lands and waters around the Grand Canyon through Trout Unlimited’s Protect Your Canyon campaign.  

Trout Unlimited (TU) has spent years working to protect one million acres of land around the Grand Canyon that is highly valuable for fishing, hunting and recreation. It has also impressed upon decision-makers that water contamination through complicated seeps and springs in this arid landscape negatively affect fish and wildlife miles away from mine sites. After billions of dollars already required for cleanup of radioactive pollution from past uranium mines, TU believes now is not the time to put our water and land at further risk.  

“We’ve seen the legacy of pollution from irresponsible mining not just in Arizona, but across the West,” said Nate Rees, Arizona field coordinator for TU. “To put one of the most iconic places in America in harm’s way would only continue this trend. Sportsmen and sportswomen are united in protecting this area and have successfully helped the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act pass the House and get introduced in the Senate. We intend to continue this fight until this area is permanently protected despite the report.” 

Much of the uranium in the U.S. is poor quality, so mining it would require significant refining costs in order to be useful, which puts nuclear energy facilities at an economic loss. A 2018 decision by the Department of the Interior listed uranium as a “critical mineral”; however, uranium is primarily a fuel mineral and should not be included in the Department of the Interior’s critical mineral list devoted to non-fuel minerals. 

“Trout Unlimited has long sought to balance protections for coldwater fisheries and wildlife habitats with responsible mining while recognizing the need for secure supply chains of minerals necessary for domestic needs and national security.  However, the NFWG report upsets that balance,” said Corey Fisher, public lands policy director for TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “The working group’s recommendation to consider categorical exclusions for mining under the National Environmental Policy Act is especially concerning. Mining and conservation don’t have to mutually exclusive, but this balance can’t be achieved by weakening environmental laws. TU is committed to a path forward that allows for responsible mining without jeopardizing iconic landscapes like the Grand Canyon.” 

About Trout Unlimited:  

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on  Facebook, TwitterInstagram and our  blog  for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.