In the 1980s, Congress passed the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984, which designated certain public lands in Arizona as wilderness and opened up other public lands for multiple use, including mineral development. According to Senator John McCain, the Arizona Wilderness Act was a compromise “that successfully balanced conservation with mining and other commercial activities.” For over 25 years, the Department of Interior and the Forest Service managed the public lands in accordance with this bipartisan compromise.
In 2012, then-Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar withdrew over 1,000,000 acres of BLM and Forest Service lands in Northern Arizona, preventing new mineral development and severely hindering any existing mineral development. Even worse, the Department of Interior had no evidence that mining operations have more than negligible impact on the protection of the Grand Canyon, which was the purported reason for implementing the withdrawal. The withdrawal has had a devastating effect on local economies, while not providing any additional protection for other natural resources in the area. In addition, it was not submitted to Congress and the Comptroller General as required by the Congressional Review Act.