The 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is an extraordinary landscape fully deserving of its monument status for a multitude of reasons. While part of the area does include coal reserves, its remote location, declining market conditions, and climate concerns make the idea of coal mining nothing more than economic and environmental folly.

On December 4, 2017, President Trump took the unprecedented action of repealing Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, slashing it by nearly half and carving out lands coveted for potential coal extraction. Four years later, on October 8th, 2021, President Biden signed a proclamation restoring the monument to its full, original boundaries. The monument will now need a new management plan, and in the meantime must be managed to meet the terms of President Biden’s proclamations.

Ongoing Litigation

Hours after Trump dismantled the monuments, 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. Now that President Biden has restored Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the parties will discuss next steps, including whether the case should be stayed and potentially how to address mining claims located during the past 3 ½ years.

Hoodoo and morning clouds, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Tom Till

The “Science Monument” and So Much More

Over the last 20 years, Grand Staircase-Escalante has claimed its place as a crown jewel equal to Utah’s national parks. The monument is world renowned for its remarkable paleontological discoveries, stunning scenery, and outstanding recreational opportunities. Local communities have benefited with significant increases in tourism, new businesses, population growth, and higher per capita income. And polls consistently demonstrate strong support for the monument, including by Utah citizens.

Escalante River hiker, Grand Staircase-Escalante. Copyright Tim Peterson

Of the many reasons to leave Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument just as it is, these are but a few:

  • Since its designation in 1996, Grand Staircase-Escalante has come to be known as the “Science Monument”—yielding several new species of dinosaur and other paleontological finds and providing habitat for 650 bee species, many that are endemic to the area.
  • Grand Staircase-Escalante has incredible camping, hiking and other recreational opportunities. Places like Calf Creek, Peekaboo and Spooky Canyon, Coyote Gulch, and the Hole in the Rock Road are known the world over.
  • Polling shows more than half of Utahns want Grand Staircase-Escalante left alone. That’s added to the more than 80 percent of Westerners that the Colorado College Conservation in the West poll showed want existing national monuments left intact.

Paria Badlands in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Tim Peterson