Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), one of Utah’s most untamed landscapes and the “crown jewel” of the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, today faces a new threat from the very agency tasked with protecting it from human-caused harm.
In the BLM’s latest push to drastically manipulate the West’s high desert ecosystems using large-scale vegetation “improvement” projects, the agency is proposing to permanently alter Grand Staircase’s wild landscape through aggressive removal of existing plant communities.
Tell the BLM to drop its destructive proposal and honor its obligation to protect the monument.
The Skutumpah Terrace habitat manipulation proposal covers 19,000 acres of public land within the monument, including over 14,000 acres of land proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. In a scientifically questionable wildlife management scheme, the BLM’s GSENM field office is proposing to convert existing vegetation into a more open sagebrush habitat through a variety of ground-disturbing methods. This may include removing pinyon pine and juniper with chainsaws and using large machinery to masticate and shred existing trees, mechanically ripping up dense stands of sagebrush, and using herbicide to maintain these more invasive treatments.
The areas affected by this proposed project contain some of the most unique and stunning scenery in the state. Dense sagebrush and pinyon-juniper vegetation frame expansive views of the adjacent White Cliffs, a dazzling escarpment that forms a rugged backdrop for this exceptionally wild landscape.
This proposed project is egregious not only because it occurs within some of the most breathtaking country in Utah, but because it falls entirely within the boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designated for the express purpose of ensuring that its remote, undeveloped, and rugged nature remains for generations.
Although the BLM has not yet conducted its full environmental analysis for the proposed project, we are concerned that the agency will not take into account the fact that these massive landscape gardening projects have very little scientific support. The agency must demonstrate, conclusively, that projects of this nature can actually be successful before continuing down the path of extensive soil disturbance and destruction of native vegetation and wilderness-quality lands.