I am proud to be an Arizona State Senator. I am even prouder to be a native Arizonan, an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast and to be in the state which is home to the magnificent Grand Canyon. Like most Arizonans I stake a personal claim to our treasured monument. President Teddy Roosevelt said it best in a 1903 speech delivered at the Grand Canyon, saying in part:
"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country -- to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is.
I was delighted to learn of the wisdom of the Santa Fe railroad people in deciding not to build their hotel on the brink of the canyon. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon.
Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.
We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children's children will get the benefit of it."
Now, more than 103 years after President Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has taken an important step towards heeding the former president's admonition to "leave it as it is" by announcing a 20-year ban on new uranium mining on one million acres of federal land around this national treasure.
As a State Senator and native Arizonan, I can say without hesitation that this was the right thing to do.
The Grand Canyon has played a central role in the American family for generations. Today, more than 4 million people visit what Roosevelt called an "unparalleled," "natural wonder" each year.
A 20-year ban on new uranium mining confirms what many of us here in Arizona have been saying for years: uranium mining doesn't belong here. It would wreak havoc on our local economies, our water supply, and our beautiful, quintessentially Western landscape all while putting tens of thousands of jobs in jeopardy at a time when so many continue to struggle.
Beyond raw numbers, the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River connect us with our history and to the land. Some things are simply priceless, like preserving the cultural, historic, sporting, hunting and fishing traditions thousands have enjoyed here for generations. That is why this decision is so important.
Secretary Salazar's intention to protect this national treasure won't be set in stone for another month -- after that he will "make and issue a final decision." Because this issue is of such great importance, I've already encouraged my friends, neighbors, and colleagues here in Arizona to contact Secretary Salazar and thank him for making such a bold move to protect our Western culture. Some have even taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their thanks.
With the Grand Canyon at the center of Arizona's outdoor-recreation industry, Salazar's move protects the Colorado River and Arizona's fragile economy. Grand Canyon National Park itself supports 12,000 jobs and fuels $680 million into northern Arizona's local economies every year. Statewide, tourism generates $16 billion annually while tourism businesses account for 82,000 -- or one in ten -- Arizona jobs.
It is plain to see why preserving this region is of such vital importance, though that hasn't stopped some from attempting to lay waste to our region's sensitive landscape and economy -- or Roosevelt's memory for that matter.
In anticipation of the Secretary Salazar's decision to ban new uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Orin Hatch (R-UT) along with Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rob Bishop (R-UT), announced legislation intended to allow new uranium mining. This despite the fact that scores of local Arizona elected officials, small business leaders, sportsmen, ranchers and farmers stand with Secretary Salazar and the 20-year ban.
Protecting the Grand Canyon is good business -- doing anything otherwise in times like this would be absurd. If you agree that new uranium mining is a risk we simply can't afford to take, I hope you'll join me in showing your support and thanks for Secretary Salazar's decision.
Let's protect Roosevelt's gem so that American families can continue to enjoy it for generations to come.