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    Mining the Grand Canyon - Speak out to protect our common waters

    Patagonia's new Our Common Waters campaign is seeking to shed light on freshwater issues across the U.S., including those affecting the Colorado River. We're urging citizens to Take Action today to stop uranium mining from areas surrounding the Grand Canyon and the Colarado River in Arizona by sending letters to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Arizona BLM. A draft-copy of a response letter is provided below. Find it next to the "Take Action" button, print out your customized version of the letter, and send it today to the address(es) provided. - thanks, Ed.

    In 1922 the Colorado River Compact allocated water for seven user states, but nothing for the river. In this action alone, engineers and policy makers sealed the fate of free-flowing water in the Southwest. Factor in explosive population growth and climate change and, eighty-nine years later, the entire river is at risk.   
    As nations rush to build reactors and bombs, we’ve developed a more urgent problem: uranium mines and new mining claims. Thousands of claims surround the river in Arizona. It will only take one blunder to contaminate the main stream, putting endangered fish and human communities that rely on the Colorado River at risk. We’re already on this course: uranium tailings have now leached into several drainages in the Grand Canyon—the National Park Service advises against “drinking and bathing” in several drainages containing excessive radionuclides. Unlike the overarching issues of water conservation that will take time to implement, this bombshell has to be stopped immediately.
    Secretary of the Interior Salazar has already proposed to withdraw all new uranium claims surrounding the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River in Arizona for 20 years (extending the two-year moratorium that runs out this July). Now we have to flood his office—and that of the BLM in Arizona—with emails, letters, and postcards supporting Alternative B. We have until April 4 to do it.
    Take_action_large Here’s how it works:
    From February 18- April 4, the Department of Interior is inviting comments on Secretary of the Interior Salazar's proposal to halt the opening or development of any new uranium mines in the area surrounding the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River corridor in Arizona; the administration is considering a variety of approaches - the one most favored by river and canyon advocates is "Alternative B."  

    You can also refer to the Grand Canyon Trust website for further information. 

    Comments must be in writing and either mailed to:

    Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Strip District
    345 East Riverside Drive
    St. George, UT 84790


    Secretary Ken Salazar
    Department of the Interior
    1849 C Street NW
    Washington DC 20240

    Comments can also be sent via email to:

    Here's a sample letter that can be copied or paraphrased for your own personalized message:

    February 25, 2011

    To Whom It May Concern,

    Please extend the Dept. of Interior’s current two-year moratorium that bans new mining claims and development of existing claims across the one million acres of watershed around the Grand Canyon. I support that protection for 20 years by withdrawing public lands through "Alternative B” as defined on the DOI February 17, 2011 press release.

    This action will prevent new uranium mines that would threaten the Grand Canyon and contaminate underground aquifers that drain directly into the Colorado River--an invaluable water source for 30 million people and 3 million acres of farms. Please place my comments in the official public record of the Environmental Impact Statement.


    [your name, address]

    By summer 2011, we can stop more uranium mining. It’s time to demand protection for our river, before it's too late.

    Jonathan Waterman is the author of Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea Down the Colorado River and The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict (coauthored with Peter McBride).  He is now researching—read: paddling—15 other rivers in the drying southwest, in hopes of alerting the public and affecting public policy before these rivers are lost.  For more information go to

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