Restoring Grand Staircase

First things first

On October 8th, 2021, President Biden issued a new Proclamation for Grand Staircase that recognizes its importance on almost every level imaginable. The Monument is — beyond any doubt — deserving of protection.

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Grand Staircase-Escalante

Volunteer at Grand Staircase Escalante Partners

Together, we are well-positioned to do great things for Grand Staircase.

We have a newly established Monument and a chance to not only restore a plan for its management that is as good as the 2000 plan, but one that fits the new Proclamation and is far better. Better for science, for the Tribes, for the American people, and for all the species out there that call this land home. With your help, we will make this happen.

Comments and Excerpts from the Proclamation

“President Biden’s proclamation defines ‘the landscape itself’ as ‘an object in need of protection’ providing ‘context for each of its constituent parts.’ Reading what follows — the incredibly detailed description of this vast landscape — is downright thrilling.

There is so much.”

Stephen Trimble

Board Member for Partners

Read More from Stephen

The proclamation’s enumeration of the “nesting doll of objects of historic and scientific interest” is jaw-dropping, overwhelming, and true. This is exactly why, as the proclamation concludes, “1.7 million acres of Federal lands is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management” of the “objects” within the fully restored Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

In the 25 years since the original proclamation, we have come to pay much more attention to the Native peoples who have “ancestral, cultural, or historical ties to this area and continue to use the area to this day.” And so, entirely appropriately, the Biden proclamation shows great respect for Tribal Nations, Tribal sovereignty, and “traditional cultural, spiritual, and customary uses” of the monument by Indigenous people. We don’t just acknowledge the rich prehistory of Fremont and Puebloan people here. We now will take care to listen to the traditional ecological knowledge and oral histories of sacred landscapes carried by the elders of today’s regional Tribes, so many of whom remain connected to this landscape. It’s transformative to remember that Native people as far away from Grand Staircase as Tesuque Pueblo, near Santa Fe, New Mexico, trace their heritage back to these canyons and mesas. This embrace of the fundamental Indigenous reality of the monument will make future management more just and true.

“To have this space; this quiet space, this night sky, something intangible yet so essential to our being acknowledged in the Proclamation gives me hope.

Hope that the magic of the monument will be respected and protected by all of us who are given the blessing of the night sky.”

Devaki Murch

Boulder Night Sky Program

Read More from Devaki

There is hope. I look up into the night sky, which down here in Boulder, Utah, is a darker shade of black. The Milky Way spans the sky, inviting wonder and awe. So many stars. The Navajo sandstone moonlight seems to glow in the night. Coyote yips are heard just over the saddle of the mesa.

The sound of the winter is magical. You might call it silent, but it’s alive. It is the sound of peace and contentment. It draws you to into your core. It invigorates you while recharging your spirit. How is that possible?

To have this space; this quiet space, this night sky, something intangible yet so essential to our being acknowledged in the Proclamation gives me hope. Hope that the magic of the monument will be respected and protected by all of us who are given the blessing of the night sky.

“The comparatively strong support for landscape scale conservation present among Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners’ values raises an opportunity to encourage Utah’s BLM managers in the direction of dialogue, understanding, and a new perspective on land management practices and principles on GSENM and across our National Conservation Lands.”

John Holland

Board President for Partners

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Recognizing an entire landscape as an object deserving protection (as in President Biden’s 2021 Proclamation restoring GSENM) demands a level of protection our BLM land management partner has no experience with and in Utah, no apparent motivation to achieve.

The comparatively strong support for landscape scale conservation present among Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners’ values raises an opportunity to encourage Utah’s BLM managers in the direction of dialogue, understanding, and a new perspective on land management practices and principles on GSENM and across our National Conservation Lands.

More than an opportunity, GSEP holds an ethical responsibility to take up the mantle of leadership in embracing and guiding the BLM in the direction of shifting landscape scale conservation toward reality.

If the preceding statements are accepted as truth, there is an undeniable urgency in taking action that will influence the work and priorities GSEP must undertake beginning now.

“The Grand Staircase-Escalante landscape is akin to a nesting doll of objects of historic and scientific interest.

The landscape as a whole is an important object that provides context for each of its constituent parts.”

Sherry Robinson

Operations Manager for Partners

Read More from Sherry

The landscape as a whole is an important object that provides context for each of its constituent parts. Within the whole are distinct and unique areas, which are themselves objects qualifying for protection. In turn, each of those areas contains innumerable individual fossils, archaeological sites, rare species, and other objects independently of historic or scientific interest and requires protection under the Antiquities Act.

“WHEREAS, I find that the boundaries of the monument reserved by this Proclamation represent the smallest area compatible with the protection of the objects of historic or scientific interest as required by the Antiquities Act; and
WHEREAS, it is in the public interest to ensure the preservation, restoration, and protection of the objects of historic or scientific interest on the Grand Staircase-Escalante lands, including the entire monument landscape, reserved within the boundaries established by this Proclamation;”

I love how beautifully this excerpt from the Proclamation states that each object within GSENM is worthy of protection, and always should be. The visual of a nesting doll, of each part fitting together to make up the whole, is wonderful. And the WHEREAS statements to reiterate and leave no wiggle room.

“The Secretary, through the BLM, shall maintain an advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) with the specific purpose of providing information and advice regarding the development of the management plan and, as appropriate, management of the monument, including scientific research that occurs therein. This advisory committee shall consist of a fair and balanced representation of interested stakeholders, including State and local governments, Tribal Nations, recreational users, conservation organizations, educators, local business owners, private landowners, and the scientific community, which may include members with expertise in archaeology, paleontology, entomology, geology, botany, wildlife biology, social science, or systems ecology.”

We should work to make sure this statement is complied with.

“This new Proclamation differs from the original in explicitly recognizing this: that the landscape is itself a direct object for protection; that it functions like a nest, incubating, co-creating, and mutually supporting of the objects it contains.”

Ed Barbanell

Board Secretary for Partners

Read More from Ed

“The landscape as a whole is an important object that provides context for each of its constituent parts. Within the whole are distinct and unique areas, which are themselves objects qualifying for protection.”
. . .
WHEREAS, I find that the unique nature of the Grand Staircase-Escalante landscape, and the collection of objects and resources therein, make the entire landscape within the boundaries reserved by this Proclamation an object of historic and scientific interest in need of protection under 54 U.S.C. 320301″

We typically create national monuments to protect the things that are found there: trees, owls, lighthouses, prairie dogs, old bones — those sorts of things. The landscape itself, its corpus, is often viewed merely as a stage upon which those other precious objects rest. But here in the grand staircase, the stage is more intimately entwined with those other things. This new Proclamation differs from the original in explicitly recognizing this: that the landscape is itself a direct object for protection; that it functions like a nest, incubating, co-creating, and mutually supporting of the objects it contains.

2021 Highlights

Volunteering for Grand Staircase

In Fall of 2021, we launched the new volunteer program.

We welcomed Kaitlin Martin, Stewardship & Education Coordinator, to the Partners team to develop and implement volunteer programs aimed at increasing land stewardship and improving responsible visitation, along with monitoring and mitigating negative impacts to the landscape.

About Partners

What we Do

Our Focus

Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) founded in 2004 to protect and preserve Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

We are committed to:

  • Promoting science, conservation, and education on the Monument.
  • Increasing public awareness and understanding of the Monument.
  • Providing resources to support the Monument’s scientific, interpretive and educational programs.
  • Expanding our membership so we represent a diverse constituency that supports the Monument.
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners Line Art Colors 3

For Science

This natural area remains a frontier, a quality that greatly enhances Grand Staircase’s value for scientific study and presents unique opportunities for geologists, paleontologists, archaeologists, historians, and biologists.

For History

The Monument is home to countless Native American cultural sites, western pioneer history, and the greatest diversity of dinosaur fossils found anywhere on Earth. 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, Diné/Navajo, San Juan Southern Paiute, Kaibab Paiute, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, Jemez Pueblo, and Acoma nations have deep connections to the Grand Staircase-Escalante region.

Science Icon GSEP

Science

Expanding knowledge and understanding of the natural wonders, biodiversity, and unique ecosystems with which this landscape is endowed by participating in scientific inquiry and historical investigation, as well as advocating for the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in land management decision-making.

Conservation Corps Photo on the Escalante River

Conservation

Ensuring Grand Staircase-Escalante’s culture, ecology, history, recreation, and science are recognized, sustained, and enhanced. Work on the ground with organizations, government agencies, and volunteers to repair and restore the Escalante River watershed, as well as prevent and mitigate damage at cultural and ecological sites.

Summer Science Camp with Grand Staircase Escalante Partners

Education

Providing in-person and virtual learning environments in which people can engage with Monument topics, and practice critical thinking, as well as exchange ideas, and learn from one another, thereby fostering the connection and understanding needed to support the Monument’s long term well-being and respect ancestral lands.

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