Today, 15 Latino faith leaders — collectively representing more than 147,000 churches — from Por la Creación Faith-based Alliance jointly sent President Obama a letter urging him to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to extend the protection of the Grand Canyon by establishing the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.
“The Greater Grand Canyon region is rich in cultural historic, natural and ecological wonders of unparalleled value and significance for the Latino and Native American community, specifically those who live in this special place,” said Dr. Jessie Miranda Jr., founder/Chairman Emeritus of Alianza de Ministerios Evangélicos Nacionales (AMEN) and CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference representing more than 80,000 churches. “Additionally, this region is crucial to the majority of local economies, to the health and quality life of Latinos and to the spiritual well-being of the community, which is why we have been active in educating our communities about protecting this region.”
Many of the faith leaders have emphasized the need to protect God’s creation, such as the Grand Canyon, through youth outings and meetings with elected officials and Administration representatives. The 15 high-profile signers of the letter signify how the Latino community is engaging their communities and discussing the importance of protecting the Greater Grand Canyon area for diverse communities and future generations, as well as ensuring access for all people including hunters, anglers, and ranchers.
“This year we celebrate the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service and all the great work done by each federal entity whose work protects our public lands for future generations,” said Rev. Jimmy Longoria, president of the United Pentecostal Local Churches representing over 50,000 churches. “The designation of the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument would be a significant step to ensure that all the histories, cultures, and communities that make up America are reflected in our public lands.”
Despite strong opposition from tribes, scientists, businesses, sportsmen, local governments and conservation groups, there have been repeated attempts to roll back the temporary moratorium currently protecting the area from new uranium mining. In communities already living with the polluted water and toxic legacy of past uranium mining, opening new mines is unacceptable. Permanent protection would ensure that new uranium mining and old-growth logging would not move forward, protecting drinking water and the quality of life for communities in northern Arizona and downstream.
“We have a moral obligation to protect our land and water for future generations. Yet, we’ve continued to risk these resources by allowing uranium mining in the watershed – numerous springs and wells have already been contaminated,” said Rev. Juan Manuel Almanza, a pastor in Las Vegas representing more than 450 churches. “Do we wish to jeopardize the Colorado River, which provides drinking water for more than 40 million people, including a third of the nation’s Latinos, and supplies over 4 million acres of farmland, when we don’t have to?”
State and national support for a new national monument in the existing public lands of the Greater Grand Canyon region has bolstered the effort. State polls show immense support for protecting the Grand Canyon watershed from uranium mining and preserving the threatened cultural and historical sites in the region. A poll earlier this year found 80 percent of Arizonians support this measure to protect one of Arizona’s and the nation’s greatest natural treasures.
“In this time of shifting demographics – the U.S. Census projects the Hispanic population to nearly double by 2050 – we have an important voice in the protection of our public lands, and a critical role to play in encouraging stewardship of our outdoor and cultural heritage,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “Protecting the Greater Grand Canyon region is significant to people across many cultures and communities, and it will help strengthen the diverse social fabric of the region.”
The full letter with the list of signatures can be downloaded at https://hispanicaccess.org/sites/default/files/GrandCanyonPLCLetter.pdf.