Murkowski Statement on Administration’s Decision to Prevent Uranium Production Outside the Borders of the Grand Canyon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today issued the following response to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement that he was extending the million-acre moratorium on new uranium mining claims outside the borders of the Grand Canyon National Park. 

“The Grand Canyon deserves to be protected and it is, but this decision is part of a misguided effort to impose ‘buffer zones’ around national parks and other federal lands that effectively lock-up vast areas without Congressional approval,” Sen. Murkowski said. “This type of unilateral extension of the borders of the park is unjustified and sets a terrible precedent.”

Today’s decision will allow for a de facto expansion of the boundaries of the park, and prohibit mineral development, to include some 356,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in the Kaibab National Forest; 627,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands; and 23,993 acres of split estate – where surface lands are held by private owners while subsurface minerals are owned by the federal government.

While the Interior Department argues that it’s not revoking previously staked claims, 20-year extension of the moratorium will clearly end exploration in the area and will likely complicate access to existing claims, making their development exceedingly difficult, Sen. Murkowski said. 

“I’m disappointed by the administration’s decision to place additional restrictions on energy and economic activity miles from the park’s boundaries,” Sen. Murkowski said. “This decision will further our reliance on foreign sources of energy and hinder efforts for job creation.”

Last year, Sen. Murkowski sent a letter to Secretary Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking what steps the administration was taking to reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign suppliers for 90 percent of its uranium needs. Today’s announcement by Salazar was not the answer she was hoping for, Sen. Murkowski said.