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Paddlers Rally to Protect Grand Canyon from Uranium Mining

Posted: 03/29/2011
by Kevin Colburn

Cullowhee, NC – The paddling community is rallying to support a proposed 20-year federal moratorium on new uranium mining claims around Grand Canyon National Park. Citing unacceptable risks of recreational, environmental, and aesthetic impacts that uranium mining could have on a “national treasure,” paddling clubs across the nation are calling on the US Bureau of Land Management to support US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s position that new uranium mining claims should not be permitted at this time.

The BLM is considering whether or not to allow new bids for uranium mining leases on more than a million acres of public land near the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, specifically in the Havasu Creek, Kanab Creek, and Little Colorado River watersheds.

American Whitewater, the leading voice of whitewater rivers, is heading the paddler’s drive to garner support for Salazar’s recommendation for a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining claims around the iconic national park. American Whitewater and its allies argue that limiting uranium mining in these areas will limit risks to the water quality and flows in several iconic tributaries to the Grand Canyon, as well as the Virgin River.

“Radiation and other pollution in these streams would directly impact human health and perceptions of wildness,” said American Whitewater Executive Director Mark Singleton. “Even very small reductions of flow in tributaries and springs would impact the experience of these places.”

American Whitewater also takes issue with the failure of an inter-agency Draft Environmental Impact Statement to examine the ramifications uranium mining would have to those who enjoy recreating in the Grand Canyon.

 “Paddlers have a deep personal connection with the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River which offers the longest backcountry river journey in the lower 48 states, and is recognized around the world as one of the most beautiful, remote, and challenging river trips on the planet,” Singleton said.  “We are deeply concerned that long-term radiation pollution and other uranium mining related impacts to Grand Canyon springs and tributaries are simply too severe to risk.”

Singleton explained that for river sports enthusiasts, paddling the Grand Canyon is a once in a lifetime opportunity requiring years of waiting, planning, and saving to bring to fruition. People on Grand Canyon river trips literally live in the Canyon for weeks at a time.  They marvel over, drink from, and swim in the Colorado River as well as cherished tributaries like the Little Colorado River, Kanab Creek, and Havasu Creek.  Experiencing each of these streams is a vital part of paddling the Grand Canyon, and the water quality and quantity of each is threatened by uranium mining.

The BLM is accepting public comments on their analysis and proposed plan through May 4. Comments may be sent to
For additional information, visit the BLM website.

ABOUT AMERICAN WHITEWATER. Founded in 1954, American Whitewater is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater rivers throughout the United States. In order to achieve its mission to conserve and restore America’s whitewater resources and enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely, American Whitewater serves as a hub of information and activism for its members who comprise a broad diversity of individual whitewater enthusiasts, river conservationists, and more than 100 local paddling club affiliates across the United States.


Kevin Colburn
Asheville, NC

Associated Rivers

Colorado AZ
Little Colorado AZ


  • Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Letter

    Letter from American Whitewater and paddling clubs in support of the BLM's proposed withdrawal of 1 million acres of land near the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining permits.