(KCPW News) Conservationists, tourism-dependent businesses and some farmers, ranchers and recreationists are applauding the Interior Department’s decision to adopt a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining claims on a million acres of public lands near Grand Canyon National Park. But it’s left many Utah lawmakers on the federal and state level furious. Republican Representative Ken Sumsion, a candidate for governor this year, says he’s especially concerned about the impact such decisions have on education funding in the state.
“When the federal government locks up these natural resources, basically they’re locking up funds coming into our education fund,” says Sumsion. “Just the sheer volume of natural resources that we have there are in the billions and you can even get into the trillions of dollars as far as natural resources. I don’t think that’s a negative impact.”
Sumsion says the resources can be accessed in an environmentally safe way.
The decision announced Monday carried out the recommendation of a Final Environmental Impact Statement released by the Bureau of Land Management in October. Jay Banta, Director of the Utah Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, says uranium mining results in poor air and water quality, and threatens wildlife habitats.
“We have to really think about protecting the integrity of those things that people come to see,” he tells KCPW. “And I don’t think for one second that the number of jobs that would be provided by uranium mining could even come close to the jobs that are generated now and will be generated in the future by continuing tourism.”
The moratorium does not affect existing mining claims.