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The Grand Canyon watershed should become our next national monument

The Colorado River winds through the Grand Canyon. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Colorado River winds through the Grand Canyon. (Wikimedia Commons)

Our wellness begins with the wellness of the land. That includes our economic wellness. The health of our water, soil, and precious ecosystems is essential to sustaining us and our economy. It is time to continue the tradition of many who have come before us and permanently protect Grand Canyon’s watershed and the plants, animals, and people that call it home.

As a representative of Legislative District 7 and as a member of the Navajo Nation, I am writing in support of protecting Grand Canyon Watershed from harmful and unsustainable uranium mining and irresponsible development by establishing it as a national monument. I know I have substantial support within my community as well as among citizens from all across the state of Arizona in favor of promoting our shared cultural heritage by mindfully conserving one of the most breathtaking natural places in the world. Together, we can urge President Obama to make the Grand Canyon watershed the next American national monument.

Jamescita Peshlakai represents Legislative District 7 in the Arizona Legislature, which includes the Navajo Reservation and the Grand Canyon.

Jamescita Peshlakai represents Legislative District 7 in the Arizona Legislature, which includes the Navajo Reservation and the Grand Canyon.

The proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument would protect 1.7 million acres of land, which includes several ecologically diverse areas such as Kaibab Plateau, Kaibab-Paunsagunt Wildlife Corridor, Kanab Creek Watershed, House Rock Valley, and the South Rim Headwaters. A national monument will safeguard these important areas from harmful uranium mining and logging of old growth Ponderosa pine forests. These areas provide essential habitats for multiple endangered species that need protection, including the California condor, and are culturally significant to many native peoples, such as the Kaibab Paiute, Zuni, Hopi, Hualapai, Havasupai, as well as my own.

The Navajo Nation has suffered significantly from past uranium mining via environmental contamination and health impacts to our people, which is why the Navajo Nation supported the mineral withdrawal to provide a temporary protection for some of these lands. A national monument will make these protections permanent. Establishing Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument will not only benefit my family, neighbors, and constituents who reside in close proximity to Grand Canyon, but also the 25 million American citizens in the Southwest that rely on clean drinking water from the Colorado River.

The climate is changing now, and for us, that means more severe droughts and decreasing water security with less water flowing down the Colorado River. We need to do everything in our power to protect the water we have, because without clean water, we have nothing. We also need to act as soon as possible — future generations are counting on us. Regardless of when the president acts, I will continue to advocate for safeguarding this region.

- Jamescita Peshlakai represents Legislative District 7 in the Arizona Legislature, which includes the Navajo Reservation and the Grand Canyon.

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