President Biden was blasted Tuesday after he designated about 1 million acres of public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona as a national monument.
As part of the action, Biden designated the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument – and unveiled a $44 million investment to strengthen “climate resilience” across national parks. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the move, which was backed by several Native American tribes, “demonstrates the importance of recognizing the original stewards of our public lands.”
Industry groups and local stakeholders, though, said Biden’s designation could negatively impact nearby farmers, cattle ranchers and mining interests.
“If any doubts remained about the Biden administration’s stance on domestic mining, this unwarranted withdrawal puts them to rest,” Ashley Burke, a spokesperson for the National Mining Association, told Fox News Digital. “By continuing to block mineral rich lands from responsible mining, this administration is imperiling our supply chains, robbing U.S. communities of high-paying jobs and community-supporting revenues, and enriching our adversaries.”
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President Biden discussed investments in conservation and protecting natural resources in Tusayan, Arizona, on Tuesday. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Burke noted that the designation Tuesday would lock up lands rich with valuable uranium resources, which are key for zero-carbon nuclear power, from future mining. According to Uranium Producers of America, the majority of domestic uranium production takes place across the Colorado Plateau region which includes northern Arizona where the national monument was designated.
Despite established domestic resources for uranium, the U.S. produces just 5% of its own uranium and imports 14% from Russia, Energy Information Administration data showed.
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“We already suffer from a near complete import reliance for uranium — an urgent and critical vulnerability for the nation, which depends on Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for 60% of our imported uranium; establishing an unnecessary national monument will only deepen that dependence,” Burke said.
Additionally, residents in southern Utah have expressed concern about the potential impact Biden’s actions would have on agriculture.
According to the Utah Farm Bureau, one of the three parcels zoned off under the actions is exclusively accessed by ranchers from several counties in southern Utah. Those ranchers said the designation essentially amounts to a seizure of private property used for agriculture production.
A photograph taken by local rancher Chris Heaton shows cattle grazing on the land impacted by Biden’s national monument designation Tuesday. (Chris Heaton/Utah Farm Bureau Federation)
“Public lands grazing and the ranching way of life also provide many important cultural contributions. The agriculture community in Southern Utah and the Arizona Strip is central to the region’s identity and sense of community,” Ron Gibson, the president of the Utah Farm Bureau, said last month.
“Ranches in this region represent traditional cultural properties that should be respected and preserved,” Gibson added. “Grazing should be classified as a traditional cultural practice by BLM and should be cherished and protected just as we do for other historic uses of our public lands.”
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The Utah Farm Bureau cited federal data showing that ranchers largely drive the local economy in the region by hiring workers, making payments on bank loans, buying supplies and engaging in other commercial business. They are able to do so, the group said, because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars generated by ranching on allotments they own in the area Biden blocked off Tuesday.
“The Utah Cattlemen’s Association is very concerned about the arbitrary designation of a Grand Canyon national monument,” Brent Tanner, the executive vice president of the Utah Cattlemen’s Association, told Fox News Digital. “Cattlemen and other public land users are held to very high standards to care for the land.”
“If at any time a change of use is requested from anyone of those multiple-use user groups, there is a long and detailed process necessary to evaluate the impact on the land, the surrounding culture and community and other users of the land,” Tanner continued.
“Today’s action by President Biden makes clear that Native American history is American history,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
He also blasted Biden for his use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to take the action and designate other national monuments. The Antiquities Act grants the president authority to establish national monuments from existing federal lands.
“President Biden’s random use of the Antiquities Act circumvents existing federal land use management processes and places the land, local communities and permitted uses in jeopardy,” said Tanner.
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Lawmakers including Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., and Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., also blasted the actions.
“Over 1 million acres of land outside of Grand Canyon National Park, which contain the largest uranium deposit in the United States, will be locked up to prevent resource development and livestock grazing,” Newhouse said. “As Chairman of the Western Caucus, I will continue to fight for the multiple use mandate and against unelected bureaucrats who are actively shutting down our public lands.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., the chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, said the action was a land grab and would lock up critical minerals. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Additionally, local lawmakers, like Republican Utah state Rep. Carl Albrecht and Gov. Spencer Cox, ripped the actions.
“What they’re doing is locking up a lot of uranium reserves which this country does not have much of anymore,” Albrecht told Fox News Digital in an interview. “Then, a lot of the cattlemen in southern Utah, all along the border and several counties, they graze on that Arizona strip — it’s a winter grazing allotment and that’ll hurt their operations significantly.”
“I think President Biden is playing to his base. He’s in a re-election and he’s playing to the environmentalists who want to see a lot of that area locked up and not developed,” he continued. “But if you read the Antiquities Act, they’re certainly not following it.”
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Cox added that the large-scale designation of national monuments “needlessly restrict access to the critical minerals that are key to cell phones, satellites, U.S. defense systems and so many other American industries” and called for the Biden administration to work with local leaders and residents.