The Trump administration is targeting for review a uranium mining ban that former President Barack Obama instituted in the watershed of the Grand Canyon.
The Forest Service, which owns some of the more than 1 million acres of land subject to the uranium ban in Arizona, put the withdrawal on a list of policies released Wednesday that it says inhibit the production and use of domestic energy.
The Obama administration instituted the ban in 2012 amid fears by American Indian tribes and environmentalists that uranium mining would pollute the Colorado River and the nearby Grand Canyon.
“This appalling recommendation threatens to destroy one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful regions to give free handouts to the mining industry,” Allison Melton, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a Wednesday statement about the report.
“The Trump administration’s willingness to sacrifice our natural treasures to polluters knows no bounds. But this reckless, shortsighted proposal won’t be allowed to stand.”
Uranium mining is regulated as hard-rock mining, so the federal government does not get any royalties for it, unlike with coal or oil extraction.
The ban has been highly controversial since it was put in place, and Republicans, industry groups and some local leaders say it unnecessarily prevents responsible economic activity.
“Uranium mining would have brought in nearly $29 billion to our local economy over a 42-year period,” the board of supervisors of Arizona’s Mohave County wrote in June to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose Bureau of Land Management owns some of the land. “This ban took away much needed growth and jobs from our area.”
Obama was pressured to turn the protected land into a national monument, which would have indefinitely blocked mining and other development, but he did not act on the proposal while in office.
Wednesday’s news comes as the Trump administration is reviewing multiple national monuments designated since 1996, with an eye on possibly reducing the size of some of them.
Meanwhile, the Interior Department last month floated increasing the entry fees at a dozen national parks, including the Grand Canyon, as a way of raising revenue for infrastructure improvement