Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Grand Canyon National Park

United States of America
Factors affecting the property in 2016*
  • Commercial development
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Mining
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Threats identified during the 2nd cycle of Periodic reporting in 2013:

  • Noise Pollution
  • Impacts from aircraft activity
  • Mining and wells may impact springs
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2016
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2016**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 19 August 2014, 4 February 2015 and 25 June 2015, the World Heritage Centre sent letters to the State Party to request further information about media reports of proposed residential and commercial development at the town of Tusayan in the vicinity of the property, a proposed tramway descending into the heart of the canyon (the Grand Canyon Escalade project), and the continuation of uranium mining operations for the Canyon Mine project near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon based on a 1986 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The State Party responded to these letters on 3 November 2014, 21 April 2015, and 6 October 2015, respectively, providing the following information:

  • The Tusayan development and Grand Canyon Escalade, although still at a conceptual stage, could constitute potential threats to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  • In 2012, a 20-year uranium mining withdrawal was put in place on 400,000 hectares of Federal lands in the area surrounding the property;
  • In conjunction, a 15-year study, which focusses on monitoring and assessing past and present uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed was initiated to better understand the environmental impacts from uranium mining near the property, to inform future plans after the 20-year withdrawal period;
  • A United States District Court has ruled that up to 11 uranium mining proposals with valid existing rights may continue to develop under the terms of the withdrawal. Several stakeholders have appealed that decision to a higher court, and in October 2015 litigation was still ongoing. Meanwhile the Canyon Mine project is under development, while ore production has not yet begun;
  • Due to the complexity of ‘valid existing rights’, the State Party is focusing its efforts to establish a scientific baseline through the 15-year study and monitor any mining activities that may impact the property.

Following further concerns about the possibility for up to 11 uranium mining proposals to proceed under the terms of the withdrawal communicated to the State Party by the World Heritage Centre on 28 January and 31 March 2016, the State Party submitted additional information on 21 April 2016, including a map indicating the locations of all above-mentioned existing and proposed developments.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2016

It is recommended that the Committee welcome the 20-year uranium mining withdrawal put in place for areas surrounding the property in order to undertake scientific studies to identify the environmental impacts of mining on the Grand Canyon watershed, which will be used to inform future mining activities. However, it is noted that the withdrawal does not encompass all lands around the property, and one uranium lease application to the south of the property is located on land that is not included in the withdrawal. Furthermore, the exemptions from the withdrawal given to 11 uranium mining proposals are of significant concern. Whilst recognizing that these proposals have valid existing rights under federal law, such mining activities have the potential for significant direct and cumulative impacts on the property, and before any mining operations are permitted, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) should be completed in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment. Noting that riparian ecosystems are specifically mentioned in the property’s Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), potential downstream impacts into the property should be considered. It should be noted in particular that the EIA for the Canyon Mine project, which was temporarily closed in 2013, dates back to 1986. It is therefore crucial that a new EIA, including an assessment of the potential impact on the OUV, is conducted before operation of this project is permitted to resume.

It is further noted that in April 2015, the Grand Canyon Escalade project had not yet progressed enough to initiate the review process. Given its proposed location (partly) inside the property, and the nature of proposed facilities, including a restaurant and river boardwalk at the bottom of the canyon, it is recommended that the Committee express its concern about the potential impacts of this project, and that it request the State Party to provide an update on the current status of the proposal and its review process.

By letter to the Department of Agriculture of 11 May 2015, the Department of Interior urged the United States Forest Service to consider in its environmental analysis of the Tusayan proposed residential and commercial development, impacts on the OUV of the property. On 4 March 2016, the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture published a news release noting its decision to not authorize the project. It is recommended that the Committee welcome this result. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2016
40 COM 7B.104
Grand Canyon National Park (United States of America) (N 75)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Welcomes the State Party’s decision to not authorize the Tusayan residential and commercial development, which had the potential to impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  3. Also welcomes the establishment in 2012 of a 20-year uranium mining withdrawal from 400,000 hectares of land around the Grand Canyon and the ongoing 15-year scientific study to better understand environmental impacts from uranium mining near the property;
  4. Notes with significant concern that there are 11 consented uranium mining proposals in the area surrounding the property that are exempt from the 20-year withdrawal due to valid existing rights, and considers that such mining activities, if they were to proceed, could have significant direct and cumulative impacts on the OUV of the property;
  5. Reiterates its position that mineral exploration or exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, which is supported by the International Council of Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Position Statement;
  6. Requests the State Party to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are completed for the proposed uranium mining developments, particularly prior to resuming operations for the Canyon Mine project, temporarily closed in 2013, which should include a specific assessment of the impact on the OUV, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
  7. Also notes with concern that the Grand Canyon Escalade project may have negative impacts on the OUV of the property, and also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre updated information on the status of this project and its review process;
  8. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.
Draft Decision: 40 COM 7B.104

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Welcomes the State Party’s decision to not authorize the Tusayan residential and commercial development, which had the potential to impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  3. Also welcomes the establishment in 2012 of a 20-year uranium mining withdrawal from 400,000 hectares of land around the Grand Canyon and the ongoing 15-year scientific study to better understand environmental impacts from uranium mining near the property;
  4. Notes with significant concern that there are 11 consented uranium mining proposals in the area surrounding the property that are exempt from the 20-year withdrawal due to valid existing rights, and considers that such mining activities, if they were to proceed, could have significant direct and cumulative impacts on the OUV of the property;
  5. Reiterates its position that mineral exploration or exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, which is supported by the International Council of Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Position Statement;
  6. Requests the State Party to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are completed for the proposed uranium mining developments, particularly prior to resuming operations for the Canyon Mine project, temporarily closed in 2013, which should include a specific assessment of the impact on the OUV, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
  7. Also notes with concern that the Grand Canyon Escalade project may have negative impacts on the OUV of the property, and also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre updated information on the status of this project and its review process;
  8. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.
Report year: 2016
United States of America
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 40COM (2016)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


top