Grand Staircase-Escalante Archives


  • December 12th, 2017

    As you know, last week President Trump issued an unlawful order to repeal the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and replace it with three smaller monuments—leaving nearly half of the original monument unprotected.

    The next day, Representative Chris Stewart (UT-02) introduced H.R. 4558, the “Grand Staircase-Escalante Enhancement Act” in the U.S. House of Representatives. This terrible bill would ratify Trump’s illegal repeal of the Grand Staircase-Escalante—and make his unlawful order permanent.

    Contact your members of Congress and tell them to oppose the Utah delegation’s efforts to permanently decimate Grand Staircase!

    Sunrise on Circle Cliffs, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Copyright James Kay

    Rep. Stewart’s bill seeks to create a management scheme for the monument that would be tilted towards grazing and mineral development—development that would be dictated by parochial local interests.

    And the bill includes a cynical bait-and-switch proposal to establish a so-called national park in a portion of the Escalante Canyons that would be managed not for conservation, but for grazing, hunting, and recreation. It is a national park in name only.

    To save Grand Staircase, we need to stop this bill. Please contact your members of Congress now!

    This atrocious bill is being given a hearing this Thursday, December 14th, and may move quickly through committee and onto the House floor. If it passes both chambers and becomes law, it will be even worse for Grand Staircase-Escalante than Trump’s executive order last week.

    Please contact your representative and senators and tell them to oppose this direct attack on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument!

    Thank you!

  • December 7th, 2017

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 7, 2017

    Contact: Jen Ujifusa, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (202) 266-0473

    This week, following the outrageous and illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments by President Trump, Utah’s representatives in Congress doubled down on the effort to unprotect these iconic landscapes by introducing two bills that would essentially ratify Trump’s actions.

    On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Stewart introduced H.R. 4558, a bill that creates three new national monuments—Escalante Canyons, Kaiparowits, and Grand Staircase, respectively. These monuments match the 48 percent reduction of the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument perpetrated this week by Trump’s Executive Order, but the language nullifies Trump’s proclamation in favor of that of the bill. The bill also creates the so-called “Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve,” but puts management planning for that park and the three national monuments in the hands of local officials in Kane and Garfield County despite the fact that these are federal lands belonging to all Americans.

    All of the new designations prioritize recreation, hunting and grazing over conservation, and the bill reopens the lands not included in the Trump monuments to mineral leasing. The bill also includes a public lands giveaway, handing the Hole in the Rock Road to the State of Utah, and will likely reopen destructive off-road vehicle routes that have been closed for decades to protect sensitive resources

    “This bill is a brazen handout to the extremist voices who wish to eliminate federal control of public lands that belong to all,” said Scott Groene, Executive Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Though it purports to protect these landscapes, by handing control almost exclusively to development interests in Kane and Garfield County, it is clear the remnants of Grand Staircase-Escalante would become playgrounds for destructive recreation, poor lands management and dirty energy. The bill, with its throw away National Park designation, is a bait and switch. No one should bite.”

    The other bill, H.R. 4532, introduced Tuesday by new delegation member Rep. John Curtis, alongside Reps. Bishop, Stewart and Love from the Utah delegation, ratifies the new boundaries that Trump’s proclamation put forth for Bears Ears National Monument, replacing the Bears Ears with two significantly diminished landscapes: the 142,337-acre Shash Jáa National Monument, and the 86, 447-acre Indian Creek National Monument. These new boundaries are an 83 percent reduction in the original Bears Ears National Monument.

    Like the Escalante bill, Rep. Curtis’ bill creates a new management council comprised of the same local elected officials that sought the undoing of the monument, as well as members of Tribes who are picked not by Tribal governments, but by the Utah delegation. Furthermore, the bill excludes three of the five tribes who advocated for protection of Bears Ears from the council. This framework ensures that the protective status of the original Bears Ears National Monument will not be honored in these newer, decimated parcels.

    “The fact that these bills even exist is evidence that the Utah delegation knows Trump’s actions were illegal, and they are scrambling to set up a Plan B,” Groene said. “But the two million acres of lands that Trump stripped from the original Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments still belong to all Americans, and we will work with our allies in Congress, who are more motivated than ever, to ensure that neither of these efforts to hand over these national treasures ever see the light of day.”

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    White Canyon in Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Jeff Clay

     

  • December 5th, 2017

    On December 4th, President Donald Trump swooped into Utah and committed the most destructive act against public lands in the history of the presidency by repealing both the decades-old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the not-yet-a-year-old Bears Ears National Monument.

    Grand Staircase was shrunk by 47 percent, with about 1 million acres remaining. And in a slap in the face to the five tribes who advocated for it, Bears Ears was decimated, its 1.35 million acres reduced by 83 percent to just 229,000 acres.

    7,000 Utahns rallied in support of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments at the State Capitol just two days before President Trump repealed them. Copyright Diane Kelly/SUWA

    Of course, we’ve seen this coming almost since the election last November. When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke began his so-called “review” of 27 national monuments, it was clear from the get-go that the number one targets were our monuments in Utah.

    And it was sadly unsurprising when Zinke’s initial findings were leaked to reveal that he had ignored the overwhelming consensus of more than 2.8 million public comments that made it clear that the American people wanted their monuments left alone, instead recommending the types of major cuts that we have now seen.

    Rest assured that we have not been caught off guard. For months we’ve been preparing for this moment, and we are taking this fight to the courts. There is no precedent for a president undoing a national monument, and we believe Trump has acted illegally. We are joining hands with our allies across the environmental community and the Tribes that have been so wronged in this act, and we will never stop fighting for these lands.

    In the meantime, here’s how you can take action:

    Take heart and stand with us. We are on the right side of history and we will win eventually.

  • December 4th, 2017

    President’s abuse of authority strips protections from iconic dinosaur wonderland in Utah and undermines 1906 Antiquities Act

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 4, 2017

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (801.428.3981 or 801.859.1552 (cell))

    Washington, DC —Hours after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, conservation organizations filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president’s power. Earthjustice is representing eight organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure: The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project.  The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit and represented by in-house counsel.

    “President Trump has perpetrated a terrible violation of America’s public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains office. “While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic, and wild heritage. We will not let this stand. We will use the power of the law to stop Trump’s illegal actions.”

    “Americans from across the nation should be outraged by President Trump’s unlawful attempt to eviscerate the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of our country’s wildest and most scientifically significant federal public landscapes,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Utah’s largest conservation organization. “No one will look back on this decision in 15, 25 or 50 years and say Trump did the right thing by protecting less of this magnificent place. And by promoting this illegal act, Utah’s parochial congressional delegation and local politicians have firmly come down on the wrong side of history.”

    The Grand Staircase-Escalante contains dinosaur fossils found nowhere else in the world. Since its designation, 21 new dinosaur species have been unearthed by scientists in the monument, leading some to call these lands a “Dinosaur Shangri-la,” and a “geologic wonderland.” Grand Staircase holds one of the richest collections of fossils from the Late Cretaceous Period, which gives scientists and the public alike an unparalleled window into the dinosaurs that lived in these lands 10 million years ago. In mid-October, scientists airlifted one of the most complete tyrannosaur skeletons ever found out of Grand Staircase. These fossils are largely found in the Kaiparowits Plateau, where the coal industry has long coveted access for coal mining that would wreak havoc on this dinosaur treasure trove that belongs to the American people.

    “I’m a resident of Kanab, and there are a lot of local businesses that are completely dependent on tourism related to Grand Staircase-Escalante,” said Laura Welp of Western Watersheds Project, and a former BLM botanist at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. “The entire ‘staircase’ of spectacular geological layers, with its world-class fossil resources, deserves to be protected intact from the threat of coal mining and other types of commercial exploitation.”

    President Trump’s executive order to revoke and replace Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument came on the heels of a review conducted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Over 2.7 million Americans roared their support for national monuments across the country, and public participation in the comment period was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping these public lands and waters protected just as they are.

    “President Trump is attempting an unauthorized remodel of the Grand Staircase, knocking out not only geologic steps but cornerstones of the evolution of species, human history, and our cultural heritage as well,” said Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands Program Director with the Grand Canyon Trust. “We’ve spent 20 years working to preserve Grand Staircase, and now we’re asking the courts to help us reconstruct what was torn down today.”

    “The Trump administration’s effort to sell out our public lands is deeply unpopular and goes against American values,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “We will work to ensure our lands and waters remain open to the public and protected for future generations to explore and enjoy.”

    “For more than two decades, through Democratic and Republican Administrations alike, we have worked with the BLM, paleontologists, local landowners, ranchers and business owners to ensure the monument’s resources are protected,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel for The Wilderness Society. “This unlawful, short-sighted action by President Trump is an affront to that collaborative work happening and to the benefits the monument provides to research, the local economy, and all Americans.”

    “Despite the call for public comments, Trump never cared that we, the public, wanted him to keep his hands off our monuments,” said Chris Krupp, Public Earth Guardian at WildEarth Guardians. “He’s not concerned with those of us that camp, hike, fish and hunt. He’d rather give another handout to oil, gas and coal companies.”

    President Bill Clinton protected the lands of Grand Staircase as a national monument on September 18, 1996 using the Antiquities Act, a century-old law that has been used by 16 presidents since Theodore Roosevelt to protect some of our nation’s most cherished landscapes and cultural heritage. Congress enacted the law in 1906, granting presidents the authority to create national monuments on federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, historic or scientific features. The Antiquities Act does not, however, grant presidents the authority to diminish or rescind the monument designations of their predecessors.

    “Grand Staircase is a cradle of biodiversity and losing even an acre would be a crime,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scientists have identified nearly four dozen new species of butterflies here. We must protect this monument’s wildlife, stunning landscapes and cultural treasures for future generations. Trump and the fossil-fuel industry have picked the wrong battle.”

    “If the Trump administration thinks Grand Staircase-Escalante can be sold out without a fight, they’re in for a huge surprise,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “We’ll be seeing them in court.”

    “The Trump administration has ignored overwhelming support for the monument. It’s a punch in the face to local businesses who support it, and all of us who treasure it,” said Shelley Silbert, Executive Director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “Our organization got its start in the Escalante Canyons nearly three decades ago and we’ve worked tirelessly for proper management of the national monument since its designation. We will fight this illegal action to take any portion of this monument away from the American people.”

    After President Clinton designated Grand Staircase, an intricate land swap between the state and federal government was completed. Congress passed legislation modifying the monument’s boundaries in 1998 and then approved a land swap in which the state of Utah received 145,000 acres of mineral-rich federal lands and $50 million from the federal treasury. That $50 million has since gone to support Utah’s public schools, and the swap would be incredibly difficult to unravel. The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration established the Land Exchange Distribution Account to dole out the proceeds from these state-federal trades. At least 27 Utah counties have since received a total of $441 million.

    Grand Staircase-Escalante has proven a tourism and economic boon for Southern Utah since its designation. Between 2001 and 2015, the population in the two counties bordering Grand Staircase grew by 13 percent, jobs increased 24 percent and real personal income grew 32 percent. Travel and tourism boomed in the region, offering 1,630 jobs around Grand Staircase. In the big picture, recreation from adventure-seekers, hikers, amateur geologists and families simply getting outdoors now funnels more than $12 billion into Utah’s economy.

    Resources for reporters:

    Read the legal document for our lawsuit filed with the United States District Court in Washington, D.C.

    SUWA materials: “Oil, Gas Coal and Mining Interests Stand to Gain from Trump’s Illegal Repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments

    Earthjustice materials: “Utah may be trading a dinosaur wonder for a coal mine” and “Trading fossils for fossil fuels at Grand Staircase-Escalante” video

    Headwaters Economics: Summary of the local economic benefits of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and economic report “The Value of Public Lands”

    New York Times: “Utah’s ‘Grand Staircase’ Leads Back in Time to Dinosaur Shangri-La”

    More on the Antiquities Act:

    When President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, he established a legal framework for the protection of national treasures. The law gives presidents the power to designate monuments on federal lands and waters—an authority granted by Congress that has for more than a century protected landscapes of extraordinary cultural, scientific and ecological value.

    The Antiquities Act has been used more than 150 times by presidents of both parties.

    Every president since 1906—with the exception of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush—has used the Antiquities Act to protect iconic places. The law has also been used to protect cultural heritage sites—from Stonewall to Birmingham to Cesar Chavez’s family home—that tell the more complete story of our nation.

    The Congressional Research Service has found that the Antiquities Act does not authorize the President to repeal national monument designations. Only Congress has that authority. Numerous legal scholars have reached the same conclusion.

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  • December 4th, 2017

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 4, 2017

    Contact: Scott Groene, Executive Director, 801.712.5034 (cell)
    Steve Bloch, Legal Director, 801-428-3981
    Mathew Gross, Media Director, 802-578-3394

    Salt Lake City, UT – In response to President Trump’s proclamations today that eviscerate Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Executive Director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “Today’s illegal proclamations by President Trump represent the single greatest attack a president has ever launched against America’s federal public lands. It is certain that the legacies of both President Trump, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who goaded him into this despicable act, will be forever tainted by their assault on more than two million acres of Utah’s wild lands that are beloved by the American public.”

    “SUWA is committed to defending these monuments in court, and confident that today’s political action will be overturned. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments will be restored to their full glory, and President Trump’s action today will be remembered as another failed attempt to thwart the will of the American people, who want these lands to remain protected.”

    With regard to his attack on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Trump divided it into three smaller sections totaling roughly 1 million acres, (a 48% reduction [900,000 acres less]) than the original monument.

    “By eliminating nearly half of Grand Staircase-Escalante, President Trump has opened up some of the most wild and scenic redrock canyons in Utah to the lost cause of coal mining. For 21 years, the protected Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has inspired families to reconnect with the wild and with each other, has reinvigorated surrounding communities, and lead to significant paleontological discoveries. It has even been affirmed and ratified by Congress. Trump’s grandstanding disregards the success of this monument, merely because Sen. Hatch instructed him to.”

    With regard to his ferocious attack on Bears Ears National Monument, Trump replaced it with two, much smaller, non-contiguous units totaling less than 230,000 acres (an 83% reduction [1.15 million acres less] when compared to Bears Ears).

    “President Trump’s decimation of the Bears Ears is just the latest in a long string of insults he has lobbed toward Tribes, five of which worked diligently for years to ensure the protection of their cultural homeland.”

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