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The Next National Monument?

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With Biden quite attuned to Native demands over land management, there is a very good chance that another 1.1 million acres of land in Arizona will receive permanent protection from development quite soon.

A coalition of tribal nations and federal lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to create a massive national monument around the Grand Canyon.

The proposed 1.1-million-acre monument would be composed of three vast swaths of land adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park. Its name would include the Havasupai phrase “Baaj Nwaavjo,” which means “where tribes roam,” and the Hopi phrase “I’tah Kukveni,” meaning “our footprints.”

“We are proud to have never left the Grand Canyon. Our home is still in the Grand Canyon, and we are the only tribe that has remained here,” Havasupai Tribe Vice Chair Edmond Tilousi said during a recent press conference outlining the proposal. “We know this place intimately. The canyon is a part of each and every Havasupai person. It is our home, it is our land, and our water source, and our very being.”

A 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hard rock mining in the area is still in effect. But many groups – including the National Parks Conservation Association – have advocated for stronger measures.

“This is an opportunity to make that protection permanent,” said Ernie Atencio, the group’s southwest regional director. “And in addition to a moratorium or a prohibition on any new mining in the area, it will add other protections to that landscape as well.”

Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Independent, joined tribal leaders in calling on Biden to use powers granted by the 1906 Antiquities Act to create the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.

While Sinema is no one’s friend, the fact that a centrist like that is on board is quite positive.

The only thing I’d say is that I wish this situation would lead to more protected land in the Northwest, but that’s fine, protecting the Southwest is also super important.

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