On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, environmental organizers in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada are petitioning President Obama to permanently block uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.
The canyon—one of the country’s most beloved national parks and an UNESCO World Heritage site—attracted roughly 5.5 million visitors last year and generates an estimated $300 million in local economic activity annually. But proposals for nearby uranium mining and resort development earned the Grand Canyon a high spot on the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2015.
Mining isn’t allowed in the park itself, but environmental groups have argued for years that adjacent and historic uranium mines are continuing to endanger the canyon, pointing to elevated uranium levels in some park areas that are ten times the federal limit. In 2012, the Obama administration issued a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mines around the park, citing the need to stem wildlife-endangering pollution.
Created by eco-advocacy group Environment America, the current initiative hopes to convince the President to make that ban permanent by turning 1.7 million acres of public land around the park into the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.