Today we are filled with hope. The Biden/Harris team has committed to restoring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument according to the nearly 1.9 million acres defined in its original 1996 proclamation.
“On behalf of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners welcomes President-elect Biden, V.P. Kamala Harris, and the rest of their administration to the ongoing campaign to protect the monument’s treasures for the benefit of all Americans, the generations alive today and those to come. We will continue to look to the monument’s quiet canyons and great cliffs, cloud-swept plateaus, and sky-piercing towers for inspiration, and for the guidance needed to meet the challenges that the future will certainly bring.” -Scott Berry, Board Vice-President
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) in southern Utah was designated as a national monument more than two decades ago. It is an ecologically diverse desert landscape that embraces scientifically significant natural and cultural resources worthy of protection.
GSENM contains the richest fossil trove of the Late Cretaceous period in the world and it has become an epicenter for university paleontological research. Twelve new dinosaurs have been identified along the Kaiparowits Plateau. Along with this important paleontological work is the vast archeological potential. More than 5000 archaeological sites have been identified since the national monument’s creation, even though only an estimated 7% of the monument has been surveyed. These archeological sites reveal knowledge about the technology, food cultivation, and trade patterns of the land’s earliest inhabitants.
Despite its monument designation in 1996 under the Antiquities Act and the established protections supported by scientists across the country and the world, on December 4, 2017, President Trump issued Proclamation 9862, which unlawfully reduced the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. As a result of his actions, the monument was divided into three units—Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons—while also creating a Kanab Escalante Planning Area (KEPA) out of lands excised from the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This unlawful revocation and replacement by President Trump reduced the protected area by 47 percent in 2017—part of a single day of action that represents the largest reduction in public lands protections in American history.
“Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument must be protected and safeguarded. We are pleased to know of the commitment from president-elect Biden to reverse and rectify the illegal reductions in 2017. From its cultural and biological resources to its ability to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change, we are grateful for the ability to continue to explore Grand Staircase for critical insights into our past and guidance for the survival of all species.” -Sarah Bauman, Executive Director
The boundaries of GSENM were established in 1996, in part, to preserve a place where natural processes remain intact and whole. This wholeness serves critical ecological cycles that govern the flows of energy, water, carbon, and nitrogen and continue to shape the land and all the life that exists there. All life on earth, in the past and today, depends on the proper functioning of these dynamic systems. To understand these cycles and utilize this knowledge to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we need access to large areas where these ancient patterns are unbroken, and where they continue to function as they did in past millennia. GSENM was established to serve as a permanent living laboratory, supporting scientists seeking to understand in depth the ongoing changes to our shared homeland.
Finally, and of great importance, is the need to protect this landscape for its significance to indigenous people. Since time immemorial, Native American people have inhabited, crossed, lived on, and been stewards of the lands that make up what we now know as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Hopi, Zuni, Dine/Navajo, San Juan Southern Paiute, Kaibab Paiute, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Acoma nations have deep connections to the Grand Staircase region.
With the anticipated restoration of the monument’s boundaries, we look forward to restoring the protections needed to ensure the long-term preservation of the natural and cultural resources that exist, and our ability to continue critical research related to the history of mankind and all living species. We will be working with the Biden Administration and our federal, state, and local partners on the ground to ensure that the Monument and its protections are restored—including advocating for increased funding for Monument research and resource protections.
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