A bill was recently reintroduced to establish Utah’s sixth national park known as the Escalante Canyons National Park. The name suggests a possible increase in protections for a place full of unique biodiversity and sacred indigenous places, as well as world-class research opportunities for paleontology, archaeology, and climate change. But instead, this proposal strips away protections and establishes a “national park” that will essentially transfer public lands away from the public to special interests aimed at monetizing the Monument.
This misleading proposal will only serve to solidify President Trump’s illegal 45% reduction of GSENM’s original acreage. Instead of parceling the Monument into different units and allowing special interests to exert control over the excised lands, we need to restore the original boundaries of the contiguous Monument and focus on protecting the outstanding natural, scenic, and cultural resources of Grand Staircase.
Here are five reasons this proposal would be a monumental mistake:
- The creation of the proposed national park would solidify President Trump’s illegal attack on monuments by codifying these unpopular rollbacks — the largest elimination of public lands protections in history.
- The legislation advances the wildly unpopular public lands takeover agenda, hands over control of over 1 million acres of public lands to local officials, and throws out the original intent of the Monument: to propel science objectives and include Indigenous input into land management decisions.
- Section 14 of this bill directs an outright giveaway of the 55-mile Hole in the Rock Road — which crosses Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area — to the State of Utah. This section cedes what the public lands takeover movement has been unable to achieve with years of litigation and illegal actions: control over a federal road. A public lands giveaway with no benefit to the owners of this land, the American people.
- This bill creates a “Management Council” composed of local officials with little-to-no expertise in public lands management to draft and oversee a management plan for the new monuments and National Park, giving power to local leaders with zero input or control from scientists, Native communities, or the American people.
- It sets dangerous precedents for national park units by making the protection and enhancement of grazing, recreation, and hunting the primary purposes of the “Park”.
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners remains committed to the complete restoration of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to its pre-2017 form. We oppose the creation of a national park that gives away control of the Monument lands outside the park’s boundaries, but we welcome the suggestion that GSENM, in the form it was created, could be permanently protected in the way that a full-fledged national park would be, with federal management that keeps our public land in the hands of all the American people.