Arizona Game and Fish calls Sierra Club fundraising letter ‘misrepresentation’

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking the Sierra Club to cease fundraising endeavors by claiming the endangered condor population in the Grand Canyon is threatened by uranium mining.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune sent a fundraising letter to supporters, claiming that the nearly 3,000 proposed mining locations in northern Arizona would prove “nothing short of devastating” for local wildlife populations, and would tarnish the ecosystem for future recovery efforts.

“Radioactive, toxic waste would deluge one of our nation’s most iconic, majestic parks and the wildlife that lives there,” Brune said in a letter directed toward fundraising for the project.

But Game and Fish said in a news release that there is a moratorium on new uranium mines near the canyon until 2032, and that there is no evidence the condors face a health threat from uranium in the canyon.

“We have not documented any sickness or death in the Arizona-Utah population of condors caused by uranium,” said Chris Parish, reintroduction project director for the Peregrine Fund, in the release. “Lead poisoning remains the number one problem for condor survival.”

The Sierra Club did not return phone calls seeking comment.

A California Condor takes flight over the Grand Canyon. (Photo by Don Graham via Creative Commons)

A California Condor takes flight over the Grand Canyon. (Photo by Don Graham via Creative Commons)

It’s the latest confrontation in the battle over mining near the Grand Canyon. Environmental groups and Native American tribes want the canyon land designated as a national monument, which would ban natural resource development. The state of Arizona and business leaders believe mining the land would provide a massive economic boost and an increase in jobs.

“We have let others debate uranium issues because our primary concern is Arizona’s wildlife, not uranium,” said Pat Madden, chairman of Arizona Game and Fish. “But when Sierra Club drags wildlife into the argument to raise funds through misrepresentation, we’re going to call them on it.”

Bill Andres, the information branch chief for Game and Fish said: “The condor population faces enough legitimate threats that there’s really no need to create false scares … We’ve been working on the ground with the Peregrine Fund and the Fish and Wildlife service since 1996 on the reintroduction of condors, and we’re the ones on the ground doing the actual work. For someone else who is not involved in the research to make claims like that (concerning issues with uranium and local condor populations), is irresponsible.”