Biden announcing historic Grand Canyon monument designation during his Arizona visit

by Andrew Wright

President Joe Biden will officially declare a national monument designation for the greater Grand Canyon during his visit to Arizona on Tuesday. This historic announcement will bring to fruition a long-held dream by Native American tribes and environmentalists to protect the land.

The Democratic President will unveil his plans to designate around 1,562 square miles (4,046 square kilometers) just outside Grand Canyon National Park as a new national monument, confirmed by his national climate adviser, Ali Zaidi. This will be Biden’s fifth monument designation.

Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, Biden will create a national monument named Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni. These words mean “where tribes roam” for the Havasupai people, and “our footprints” for the Hopi tribe.

Arizona’s status as a key battleground state, narrowly won by Biden in 2020, adds political significance to the move. It’s a vital part of his strategy to secure re-election as Arizona is among the few genuinely competitive states.

Later this week, Biden will also visit New Mexico and the Republican stronghold of Utah as part of his western swing. In New Mexico, the Democrats are considered safe for 2024.

Despite campaign politics, the central issue is the effort by tribes and environmentalists to preserve the land surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park. While some highlight the economic benefits of mining, the designation marks a “new era” of collaboration and stewardship with tribes, said U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

The designation will protect areas vital for indigenous religious ceremonies, hunting, and gathering, including rare resources. It aims to protect significant historical and scientific objects for the benefit of tribes and future generations.

Biden, who arrived at Grand Canyon National Park Airport on Monday, was welcomed by Democratic congressmen Raúl Grijalva and Ruben Gallego. Grijalva has previously championed the creation of the monument.

During his address, Biden will speak near significant locations to the Havasupai and Hopi tribes. Various northern Arizona tribal representatives will attend, including those who are concerned about the effects of uranium mining on the environment.

Existing mining claims won’t be impacted by the designation, and only about 1.3% of the nation’s known uranium reserves are encompassed in the monument site. Despite earlier resistance to such a monument, the political landscape in Arizona has shifted, with current leaders, including Governor Katie Hobbs, supporting the designation.

However, opposition from mining companies and areas that stand to gain economically from mining still exists. The monument proposal has been criticized as politically motivated, with some arguing that it hampers efforts to reduce dependency on foreign uranium.

No active uranium mines are operating in Arizona, although some have been under development. Certain claims may still potentially open due to established rights before 2012.

After his Arizona visit, Biden will continue to Albuquerque on Wednesday to discuss how combating climate change has created jobs. In Salt Lake City on Thursday, he will mark the PACT Act’s first anniversary and hold reelection fundraisers in each city.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about ​

What is the purpose of President Biden’s national monument designation for the greater Grand Canyon?

The designation aims to preserve about 1,562 square miles just outside Grand Canyon National Park. It reflects the desires of Native American tribes and environmentalists to protect the land for religious ceremonies, hunting, gathering of plants and medicines, and to protect objects of historical and scientific importance.

Who has been pushing for this designation and what does the monument name mean?

Tribes in Arizona have been advocating for this designation. The new national monument will be called Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni, meaning “where tribes roam” for the Havasupai people, and “our footprints” for the Hopi tribe.

How will the designation affect existing mining claims and the nation’s uranium reserves?

Existing mining claims will not be affected by the designation, and the monument site encompasses around 1.3% of the nation’s known and understood uranium reserves. Officials maintain that significant resources will remain accessible in other parts of the country.

What is the political significance of this move in Arizona?

Arizona is a key battleground state that Biden narrowly won in 2020 and is considered vital for his re-election efforts. The designation has support from some of Arizona’s political delegation but also faces opposition, especially from mining companies.

What are President Biden’s plans after his visit to Arizona?

After Arizona, Biden will go to Albuquerque to talk about how fighting climate change has created new jobs, and he will visit Salt Lake City to mark the first anniversary of the PACT Act. He will also hold reelection fundraisers in each city.

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Sara O'Connell August 8, 2023 - 8:18 pm

I’m all for protecting the enviroment but what about the mining industry and the economics? seems like theres no balance…

John Smith August 9, 2023 - 12:20 am

wow thats big news for Arizona! Biden really pulling out all the stops. Native Americans must be thrilled

Megan_W August 9, 2023 - 11:55 am

Visited the Grand Canyon last year. Absolutely breathtaking! this news is awesome, glad to see something is being done to preserve such a wonder

AlexK August 9, 2023 - 4:09 pm

Dont know much about politics but I think its about time we prioritized nature, our children need to experience it too, good job Biden!

Timothy_R August 9, 2023 - 4:51 pm

So whats the real motive behind this? Is it about the environment or just politcal gains for the next election? somethings fishy


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