Tusayan, Arizona — President Biden issued a presidential proclamation Tuesday establishing a new national monument to protect nearly 1 million acres of land around the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.
The new national monument is meant to preserve the ancestral land that is sacred to several Native American tribes in the area. The national monument is known as Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni — Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, drawing upon the Havasupai and Hopi languages.
The president signed the proclamation at the Grand Canyon, flanked by Native American leaders and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. His visit was part of a three-state swing out West meant to emphasize his climate agenda and economic policies.
"I've made a commitment as president to prioritize and respect the tribal sovereignty in self-determination," Mr. Biden said. "To honor the solemn promises the United States made to tribal nations to fulfill federal trust to treaty obligations. I pledge to keep using all of that available authority to protect sacred tribal lands. ... At a time when some seek to ban books and bury history, we're making it clear that we can't just choose to learn only what we want to know. We should learn everything that's good, bad — the truth about who we are as a nation. That's what great nations do."
Establishing this area as a national monument effectively bans any new uranium and other hard-rock mining leases in the area. But more than 3,000 mining leases that existed before 2012 — when a 20-year pause on new leases was put in place by the Obama administration — will be allowed to continue.
Responding to mining industry concerns about potentially limiting uranium production for nuclear energy use, one official who previewed the announcement said "significant" uranium resources can be found elsewhere, since only 1.3% of the known domestic uranium resources in the U.S. are located in this area.
Officials also said no private property or existing hunting, fishing and grazing land will be impacted by the new national monument.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary, welcomed the announcement and said this decision reiterates that "Native American history is American history."
Haaland also said this national monument honors the hard work by Havasupai tribal leaders to preserve their ancestral homelands after they were "driven out" by the federal government in 1919 to form the Grand Canyon National Park.
"Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument will help address past injustices and create a partnership between the United States and the region's tribal nations in caring for these lands," Haaland said.
Tuesday's presidential proclamation outlines a "co-stewardship" model of management for this land between the federal government and tribal leaders, along with input from a commission of local and state leaders.
This marks the fifth national monument the president has established so far. The others are located in Illinois and Mississippi, Texas, Nevada and Colorado.
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