Grand Staircase‐Escalante National Monument was created to protect the irreplaceable antiquities that exist within it. The monument is now under threat – first from Trump’s illegal attempts to dismantle it and now from the Bureau of Land Management’s plans for managing it. These plans do not protect the monuments’ irreplaceable values and, instead, would invite its destruction.
Throughout these plans, the agencies considered approaches that would have prioritized protecting monument values and acknowledged the potential harm from choosing to open these lands to more uses. Instead of choosing the most protective management, the agencies knowingly chose to abandon these lands to preferred alternatives that could destroy fossils, wilderness and sacred sites. The BLM spent over $1,000,000 of taxpayer resources to identify the best ways to manage these cultural, historical and scientifically significant sites but are proposing plans that do very little to protect these places and instead opens many of them to destructive uses, stating their preferred alternative “..conserves the least land area for physical, biological and cultural resources; designates no [Areas of Critical Environmental Concern] or [Special Recreation Management Areas] and is the least restrictive of energy and mineral development.” The plans undermine the purpose of the Antiquities Act and what monument designation is meant to provide.
Most egregious, the lands removed from the Grand Staircase are thrown open to oil and gas drilling, coal and other types of mining, and industrial energy development and uncontrolled off‐road vehicle use.
The BLM is accepting comments on their draft management plans now through November 15th. You can find more information here.
Comments can be submitted either by Mail: 669 S Hwy 89A Kanab, UT 84741, Attn: Matt Betenson
or online with ePlanning: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/comments/commentSubmission.do?commentPeriodId=70905
Below are some sample comments that you may want to submit:
- Grand Staircase‐Escalante National Monument was designated to protect amazing fossils sites for research. The unparalleled fossil discoveries and opportunities for more to come are unparalleled. Its cultural history inspires us and its amazing geological wonders were protected to ensure recreation opportunities for people who come from near and far. Now these lands are more at risk than ever.
- Fossils at risk: The proposed plans leave lands, including those within the monument, open for “casual collection” of fossils. This is damaging and reckless. The BLM acknowledges these risks ‐‐ “loss of significant specimens” – in their own analysis, yet they recommend a plan that allows random collection and no protection for historic fossil sites. This goes against the very reason that Grand Staircase was created.
- BLM claims they will no longer put public lands up for sale, but they can’t be trusted. The actual language in the agency memo only directs BLM to remove the disposal language from the preferred alternative, leaving the BLM free to engage in last minute shenanigans and put it back in the plans.
- The BLM used every opportunity they had to open the lands excluded from Grand Staircase to energy development:
- The only lands closed to oil and gas leasing are those that the BLM was legally prohibited from opening because they are wilderness study areas.
- .02% are recommended for withdrawal from mining, leaving nearly all of the land open to potential hard rock or other mining.
- 75,000 acres ‐ just 9% ‐ are found unsuitable for coal mining; suggesting that 91% of these monument‐quality lands are somehow appropriate for coal mining.
- The highest quality fossil areas would now be opened for leasing rather than be given the high levels of protection as monuments and even responsible land use plans can and should do.
- The BLM’s proposed plan does not close any lands to motorized use.
- Acres and acres of lands are excluded from protection and none will be managed to protect their conservation, recreation, research, biological or wilderness values.
- Both the Grand Staircase‐Escalante National Monument and the excluded lands are managed with the least possible protections: “Compared to other alternatives, Alternative D [the BLM’s preferred plan] conserves the least land area for physical, biological, and cultural resources; designates no special conservation management areas (Areas of Critical Environmental Concern or Special Recreation Management Areas); and gives the most discretion to energy and mineral development.”