Quantcast
Popular
The famous Wahweap Hoodoos at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are no longer protected as a national monument. Mark Stacey / NOAA

New Grand Staircase-Escalante Proposal Would Further Harm the Region

By John Gilroy

Just a day after President Donald Trump significantly diminished the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) introduced legislation that would reduce the protections on this unique landscape even further.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante Enhancement Act (H.R. 4558) mirrors President Trump's proclamation by creating three smaller national monuments and one national park that together would preserve roughly 60 percent of the landscape that has been safeguarded by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument since its inception in 1996.


All major management decisions about the park and the monument would not be made by the National Park Service or other professional federal land managers. Instead, the management plans for each would be developed and implemented by a newly created "management council" of seven people, including four local county commissioners and one Utah state representative.

Most Utahans backed the national monument

The two-decades-old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was supported by local business owners, science communities, sportsmen and Utahans across the state. According to a bipartisan 2016 poll, residents believe—by a margin larger than 2-to-1—that Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was good for their state. During the Trump administration's national monument review, 99 percent of the nearly 3 million comments submitted expressed support for maintaining or expanding national monuments, including Grand Staircase-Escalante.

The monument is good for Utah's economy

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has become a world-class tourist destination, with visitors coming to squeeze through its slot canyons, marvel at southern Utah's cliffs and plateaus, and explore colorful hoodoos and other geologic wonders. The 2016 poll found that 70 percent of voters surveyed felt the national monument had resulted in a beneficial impact on the state's tourism industry. That belief is supported by a 32 percent jump in personal income and a 24 percent increase in jobs in communities neighboring the national monument between 2001 and 2015, according to research from Headwaters Economics. Citing its importance to the vitality of nearby communities, local businesses and the Escalante & Boulder Chamber of Commerce urged the Trump administration to keep the national monument intact.

Calf Creek Falls at Grand Staircase-Escalante National MonumentBureau of Land Management Utah

Future discoveries lost

Cutting the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante by roughly 40 percent will be a significant loss for science. Last month, 146 scientists, researchers, and academic organizations expressed concern over fragmenting this "important living laboratory," where significant research and discovery has happened, sending a letter to the president asking him to leave this monument unaltered.

Following President Trump's action on the Utah monuments, Tom Wathen, a vice president at The Pew Charitable Trusts responsible for conservation projects in the U.S., said:

"The Kaiparowits Plateau in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has been called 'the Shangri-La of dinosaurs' for the many skeletons of these enormous creatures that have been unearthed, including 21 previously unknown species. The remains of the oldest, an 81 million-year-old tyrannosaurus—Lythronax argestes—were recovered from the plateau just four years ago. Reducing this monument's boundaries by more than 40 percent to allow for development will do serious harm not only to scientific exploration but also to the livelihood of the local community, which has grown and thrived from tourism since the monument was designated in the red rock countryside of southern Utah more than 20 years ago."

Under H.R. 4558, Devil's Garden would be located in the new Kaiparowits National Monument and overseen by the new management council consisting of just seven people.Bob Wick

De facto transfer of public lands

The management council that this legislation proposes would take land management decisions out of the hands of the public and give it to just seven people—four county commissioners from Utah's Kane and Garfield counties, a Utah state legislator who represents those counties, an Interior Department employee, and an appointee of the president. It would set a disturbing precedent for the management of federal land by handing all major management decisions in the national monuments and a national park over to a management council that is heavily weighted with a majority of local and state elected officials.

The Pew Charitable Trusts opposes H.R. 4558 and is urging members of Congress to reject this legislation.

John Gilroy directs The Pew Charitable Trusts' U.S. public lands program.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals
Dolphin found with a bullet wound in California's Manhattan Beach. Marine Animal Rescue / Facebook

'Senseless Killing': Dolphin Found Shot Dead on California Beach

How could anyone shoot a dolphin? A dolphin that washed up dead in Manhattan Beach, California died from a bullet wound, according to local animal rescue workers.

Earlier this month, Peter Wallerstein, the founder of Marine Animal Rescue, responded to a call about a stranded dolphin on the surf, according to NBC News. By the time he arrived at the scene, the marine mammal was dead.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A critically endangered Javan rhino in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park. Robin Moore / Global Wildlife Conservation

See Stunning Footage of World's Most Threatened Rhino

With only 68 individuals left on the planet, the Javan rhino is the world's most threatened rhino species.

So you can image the surprise when a team from Global Wildlife Conservation and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) saw one of these incredible creatures wallowing in the mud in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park, the only place on Earth where these critically endangered species are found.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Laurie and Charles / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Turkeys: Who Are They, and Why Should We Care?

By Karen Davis

We adopted Amelia as a young turkey into our sanctuary from a local farmer. She lived with us for five years until her legs gave out, and we had to call our veterinarian to put her to rest, surrounded by her friends in the yard. Until then she hung out happily with the chickens and ducks, and when people visited, she'd fan out her white tail feathers and stroll amiably beside them.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses a rally held to call on Sen. Jeff Flake to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Khanna to Pelosi: Don't Just Create Green New Deal Select Committee, Make Ocasio-Cortez Its Chair

By Jon Queally

As the debate within the new House Democratic caucus continues to grow over the demand to create a New Green Deal select committee, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) came out on Saturday to say that not only should Nancy Pelosi create such a committee, she should appoint newly-elected New York freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be its chairperson.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Foxys_forest_manufacture / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Awareness of Food Waste Can Help Us Appreciate Holiday Meals

By Bryce Hannibal

Americans celebrate the winter holidays in many ways, which typically include an abundance of food, drinks, desserts—and waste. Food waste is receiving increasing attention from managers, activists, policymakers and scholars, who call it a global social problem. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, wealthy nations waste nearly as much food every year as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

Efforts to reduce food waste tend to focus on consumption practices, with less attention to the production and distribution side. But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a large proportion of food loss and waste in the U.S. occurs at the farm-to-retail level, with about 133 billion pounds of food available at retailers going uneaten.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
The SeaRose FPSO and offshore support vessels. Berardo62 / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

250,000 Liters of Crude Spills off Newfoundland Coast

An estimated 250,000 liters (66,000 gallons) of crude spilled from the SeaRose FPSO, a floating production, storage and offloading vessel, in the White Rose oil and gas field off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Husky Energy, the operator responsible, said the spill happened on Friday when the SeaRose FPSO "experienced a loss of pressure" in an oil flowline, according to the Canadian Press.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
Trump speaks while Wheeler stands by at the White House State Leadership Day Conference for Alaska, California and Hawaii in October. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Trump Wants Coal-Friendly Wheeler to Run the EPA Permanently

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he would nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to permanently run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CNN reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Protestors block traffic on Westminster Bridge, demanding urgent action on climate change. Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

6,000 Climate Activists Block 5 London Bridges, Demand Urgent Action

On Saturday, More than 6,000 climate activists shut down five bridges in Central London. The protest, organized under the banner of Extinction Rebellion to call for urgent action on climate change, was the first to intentionally block the bridges "in living memory," the group reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!