In National Mining Association v. Zinke, (9th Cir., Dec. 12, 2017), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Obama administration’s withdrawal for up to 20 years of over 1 million acres of land near Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining claims.  Among other things, the court rejected a claim that the Interior Department violated the Establishment Clause when it precluded new mining claims in order to protect land that has sacred meaning to Indian tribes. The court reasoned in part:preservation of areas of cultural or historic value … may constitute a “secular purpose” justifying state action even if the area’s significance has, in part, a religious connection.In a related opinion in Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, (9th Cir., Dec. 12, 2017), the 9th Circuit upheld the right of a two companies with a pre-existing approval to operate a uranium mine near Red Butte within the Grand Canyon withdrawal area.  Red Butte is a site of religious and cultural significance to the Havasupai Tribe.  Washington Post reports on the decisions.



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