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Environmentalists explain issues with mining Grand Canyon

<p>Students and environmental groups rallied against uranium mining in the Grand Canyon last Thursday in the Cook Student Center. Mining in the canyon could cause severe damage to iconic lands.</p>

Students and environmental groups rallied against uranium mining in the Grand Canyon last Thursday in the Cook Student Center. Mining in the canyon could cause severe damage to iconic lands.

Students and environmental activists came together for an hour-long discussion explaining the threats facing the Grand Canyon with the goal of establishing the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.

The event, sponsored by New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) Student Chapters, Environment New Jersey and the New Jersey Sierra Club, involved signing and taking photo petitions, as well as making phone calls to politicians such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NY).

The event is part of a national campaign to protect the grand canyon from uranium mining by calling on the president to establish a new national monument bill to permanently protect 1.7 million acres of land, said Jake McNichol, the campaign organizer with Environment New Jersey.

The goal of the night was to get students activated and offer them the opportunity to take some action on a really important campaign, he said.

The mines will tear up the landscape in the area, kill off endangered species, destroy more than 1,000 Native American heritage sites and also poison the drinking water for about 25 million people in the area, McNichol said.

To take a stance, students can watch out for other opportunities to get involved with this issue and reach out to Environment New Jersey, he said, but what is most important is just being aware of the issue.

“We know the president is on our side on this issue,” McNichol said. “He has already issued a temporary ban on the mining, and he’s also got a short list of monuments he wants to establish before he leaves office.”

But he is receiving intense pushback from the mining industry, especially the Koch brothers, he said.

“We just need to show him that there is widespread support from people all over the country, especially young people to do the right thing and protect this area,” McNichol said.

Having the monument established will have a nationwide impact, he said.

“It will send a strong message to polluters all over the country, not just the grand canyon,” McNichol said. “Because if we are able to make something happen in such a visible location and get the president to take a leadership role … That’s going to send a message to corporations in New Jersey and to lawmakers and decision makers.”

The issues that are facing the Grand Canyon are the same issues we are facing here in New Jersey, said Greg Gorman, conservation chair for New Jersey Sierra Club.

New Jersey has to deal with the same issues in regard to the pilgrim pipe line, commercial logging on state lands and more, Gorman said.

“It is commercial conversation of public lands, at the expense of the nature,” he said. 

Noa Halff is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. She is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum.

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