County extends fight over mining

KINGMAN - Mohave County has entered into another fight to keep public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park open to mining.

The Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously approved an interlocal agreement between Mohave County, the town of Fredonia, the state governments of Arizona and Utah and Washington, Garfield, Kane and San Juan counties in Utah in order to fight a proposal to declare 1.7 million acres in the Arizona Strip a national monument.

In April four organizations - the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, the Wilderness Society Western Lands, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity - said they were pushing for President Barack Obama to propose a new national monument surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park.

According to maps of the proposal, the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument would take up most of the Kaibab National Forest north and south of Grand Canyon National Park. That includes a large section of land in the Arizona Strip, north of the Grand Canyon, between Grand Canyon Parashant and Vermillion Cliffs national monuments.

The proposal states that turning the area into a national monument would protect old-growth forests, endangered species, and important water, archeological and natural resources. The proposal would still allow people to hike, observe wildlife, hunt, fish and conduct a number of other activities.

Typically, federal land can only be removed from grazing, mineral and other public uses by an act of Congress. However, Obama could use the Antiquities Act to circumvent Congress and create a national monument.

This is not the first time the county has objected to proposal to remove federal public lands from mining or other uses.

The Board of Supervisors partnered with mining company Quaterra Alaska in April to file a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Interior Department's decision to remove more than 1 million acres, including several thousand acres in Mohave County, from new hard-rock mining claims earlier this year. The government withdrew the land from new mining claims to protect the natural beauty of the area, its historical sites and water sources such as the Colorado River.