Shondiin Silversmith

(Arizona Mirror) Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen announced Friday that he is giving the “greenlight” to the Arizona Senate to file a lawsuit against the Biden administration for last month’s designation of a national monument near the Grand Canyon, which he said was an unconstitutional “land grab.”

“President Biden’s attempt to cloak his unconstitutional land grab in the name of the Grand Canyon is not fooling Arizona,” Petersen said in a statement to the Arizona Mirror. “The Grand Canyon is already protected.”

The call for a lawsuit comes a little over a month after President Joe Biden visited Arizona to announce the newly designated Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument on Aug. 8, effectively barring mining on roughly a million acres of land in northern Arizona near Grand Canyon National Park.

“The monument designation is nothing more than a re-election stunt meant to pander to radical environmentalists who want to shut down uranium mining and make us energy-dependent on China,” Petersen said. “The Senate is committed to standing up against Joe Biden’s unlawful and harmful executive actions.”

On Aug. 7, the night before Biden’s designation, Republican House and Senate leaders hosted an emergency special meeting in Kingman to hear testimony from local officials and concerned community members.

“This thinly veiled effort to appease his radical environmental base as he campaigns for re-election will have dire consequences for all Arizonans,” Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli said in a press release. “We strongly condemn this dictator-style land grab that will greatly hurt Mohave County and further limit private and state land resources needed for our economic viability.”

During the special meeting, a majority of the public comments raised concerns about access to public lands, concerns about cutting off proposed uranium mining, and government control of land and water, among other topics.

The Grand Canyon is the ancestral homeland of multiple tribal nations across the Southwest, and tribes still rely on the canyon for natural and cultural resources that are significant and sacred to their communities.

In April, tribal leaders, alongside state and federal officials, launched an effort to sustain the natural resources of the Grand Canyon by calling on Biden to designate land surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park as a national monument by using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Their efforts succeeded when Biden designed the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in August.

The name is a mixture of the traditional Havasupai and Hopi languages. Baaj Nwaavjo means “where tribes roam” for the Havasupai Tribe, and I’tah Kukveni means “our footprints” for the Hopi Tribe.

The new monument spans 917,618 acres of public lands managed by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.

“The national monument designation recognizes and respects valid existing rights,” Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland said when the monument was established. The proclamation outlines that maintenance and upgrades to water infrastructure will continue, and utility lines, pipelines, and roads will be maintained.

“Existing mining claims — predating a 20-year mineral withdraw initiated in 2012 — will remain in place,” Haaland said, and the two approved mining operations within the monument’s boundaries could operate.

“The national monument only includes federal lands and does not include state and private lands within the boundary or affect the property rights of the state or private landowners,” she added.

The monument will comprise three distinct areas south, northeast, and northwest of Grand Canyon National Park.

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