Biden expected to designate Grand Canyon monument

By Robin Bravender, Scott Streater, Emma Dumain | 08/04/2023 04:12 PM EDT

The designation, described by people familiar with the White House’s plans, would be a major victory for lawmakers, tribes and conservation advocates who have been pushing for protections surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.

FILE - Tourists look out from the South Rim at the Grand Canyon, May 4, 2023. Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs is urging President Joe Biden to use the Antiquities Act to designate the tribally proposed Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. In a letter dated Tuesday, May 30, Hobbs told Biden that she’s committed to preserving cultural and natural treasures throughout Arizona and said the Grand Canyon is a “culturally sacred place stewarded by Indigenous Peoples for centuries.” (AP Photo/Ty O'Neil, File)

Tourists look out from the South Rim at the Grand Canyon on May 4. Ty O'Neil/AP Photo

President Joe Biden is expected to designate a new national monument protecting lands outside the Grand Canyon National Park during his trip to Arizona next week, according to three people who work for conservation groups familiar with the plans.

Those people were granted anonymity to speak about the White House’s plans before a formal announcement.

No details were immediately available about the site’s footprint or whether it would include the full amount of acres sought by Native American tribes.


The likely monument designation — first reported Friday by The Washington Post — would mark a major victory for Arizona lawmakers, tribes and conservation advocates who have urged Biden to protect the lands, which they argue need to be shielded from possible uranium mining in the area.

Leaders from a dozen Native American tribes have been pushing for years to protect lands around the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona that are managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument they want to see created includes about 1.1 million acres of land.

The Obama administration implemented a 20-year ban on new mining in the area. A monument would make protections permanent.

Numerous Native American tribes consider the lands at issue as culturally significant. Baaj Nwaavjo means “where tribes roam” for the Havasupai Tribe, and I’tah Kukveni means “our footprints” for the Hopi Tribe, according to a monument fact sheet circulated by Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) in April urged Biden to use his executive authority to establish the national monument.

In addition to its cultural significance, the area is also at the headwaters of a significant Colorado River watershed and provides important habitat for endangered species like the California condor and a pathway for numerous species of migratory birds and wildlife, the fact sheet noted.

Grijalva, who has long pushed legislation for a permanent mining ban around the Grand Canyon National Park, earlier this week touted the results of a poll showing voters in his home state would support the monument designation.

Grijalva said during a call with reporters that Biden had a real opportunity to advance Native American interests by designating the monument.

“I feel strongly that that is possibly one of the most important things that can happen in the next few months or so,” he said.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland toured the Grand Canyon’s South Rim in May with Grijalva and Sinema staffers. They met with tribal leaders, local elected officials and community members.

Biden is slated to travel to Arizona, New Mexico and Utah next week, although the White House has not yet provided further details about his trip.

A spokesperson for the White House Council on Environmental Quality did not respond to a request for comment.

The National Mining Association criticized the expected designation in a statement Friday.

“If any doubts remained about the Biden administration’s stance on domestic mining, this unwarranted withdrawal puts them to rest,” said NMA spokesperson Ashley Burke.

“By continuing to block mineral rich lands from responsible mining, this administration is imperiling our supply chains, robbing U.S. communities of high-paying jobs and community-supporting revenues, and enriching our adversaries,” Burke said.

The new monument would be the fifth created by Biden.

Last October, he designated his first national monument: the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument in Colorado.

In March, Biden designated two more: the 506,814-acre Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada, which protects mostly BLM-managed lands that are considered sacred to Yuman-speaking Native American tribes, and the 6,672-acre Castner Range National Monument on an old Army weapons testing range in El Paso, Texas.

And just last week, he signed a proclamation creating the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, made up of three separate sites in Illinois and Mississippi.

Reporters Jennifer Yachnin, Rob Hotakainen, Heather Richards and Hannah Northey contributed.