New Poll on Monuments: Déjà Vu All Over Again

A new Utah poll demonstrates, again, that while bold conservation is often controversial at inception, it becomes appreciated with time. But Utah’s politicians still haven’t learned. When significant landscapes are protected by executive orders, they pull the Chicken Little routine and shake their fists at the sky. History proves them wrong every time.

And it’s happening all over again.

A new Dan Jones poll shows Utahns 2-1 oppose Utah politicians’ efforts to break apart the Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument. Twenty years ago, President Clinton was hung in effigy in Escalante for establishing the monument. Today, local businesses there and in Boulder are pleading with the Trump administration to leave it intact.

Buttes along the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

As we’d expect, the poll shows less support for the nascent Bears Ears National Monument. This is probably due to the steady outpouring of flagrantly false claims made by Senator Hatch, Representative Bishop and others that the monument will somehow devastate local economies and harm school kids. Still, only half of Utahns have bought into the lies so far as to favor reducing the monument.

Given time, the majority of Utahns will solidly celebrate Bears Ears as they do the Grand Staircase.

And of course, these lands belong to all Americans, not just those of us living here in Utah.

Bears Ears Buttes in Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

These protections are good for America. There is no serious argument that we’d be better off today if the Grand Staircase-Escalante had been sacrificed to a coal mine—especially as the view from the Kaiparowits Plateau (where the coal diggers wanted to dig) already includes the 800-foot-tall smokestacks at the Navajo Generating Station, set to close in two years because burning coal is no longer economic.

President Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument for the Tribes who have lived and used these lands since time immemorial, and it will be a great injustice if it is undone. Utah politicians will go down as standing far on the wrong side of history.

Every time Americans have chosen to protect western landscapes, the decision has been recognized as wise, with the perspective of time, by citizens living both far from and near the affected lands. This week’s poll confirms that, again. Will Utah’s politicians ever learn?