Biden: New Monument Is 'Good for the Country's Soul'

Move doubles Grand Canyon protected area
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 8, 2023 5:32 PM CDT
Biden Creates New Grand Canyon National Monument
A supporter waits for President Biden to speak and sign a proclamation designating the Baaj Nwaavjo I'Tah Kukveni National Monument at the Red Butte Airfield Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, in Tusayan, Ariz.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Declaring it good "not only for Arizona but for the planet," President Biden on Tuesday signed a national monument designation for the greater Grand Canyon, turning the decades-long visions of Native American tribes and environmentalists into reality. Coming as Biden is on a three-state Western trip, the move will help preserve about 1,562 square miles just to the north and south of Grand Canyon National Park, the AP reports. It encompasses canyons, plateaus, and tributaries that feed a range of plants and wildlife, including bison, elk, desert bighorn sheep, and rare species of cactus, and it is Biden's fifth monument designation.

Tribes in Arizona have been pushing the president to use his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create a new national monument called Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni. "Baaj Nwaavjo" means "where tribes roam," for the Havasupai people, while "I'tah Kukveni" translates to "our footprints," for the Hopi tribe. "Preserving these lands is good, not only for Arizona but for the planet," said Biden, who spoke with a mountain vista behind him. "It's good for the economy. It's good for the soul of the nation." The president tied the designation to his administration's larger push to combat climate change and noted this summer's extreme heat, which has been especially punishing in places like Phoenix.

Biden said the new designation, which blocks mining in the area and doubles the protected area around the canyon, would see the federal government live up to its treaty obligations with Native American tribes after many were forced in decades past from their ancestral homes around the Grand Canyon as officials developed the site of the national park. "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 what we want to learn," Biden said. Republican lawmakers and the uranium mining industry that operates in the area had opposed the designation, arguing that the mining efforts are a matter of national security. (More Grand Canyon stories.)

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