Administration Releases Draft Plans for Reduced Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments
As you probably know, early in the year, the administration announced significant reductions to protected lands in Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Interior recently released draft plans for the area within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (now called Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons Units).
There are a few issues with these plans. First, the administration’s reductions in protected land are illegal, and are still being litigated. It’s premature to release land plans when the reduced boundaries are being actively litigated. Second, Interior is pushing monument management plans far faster than is typical, opening up land for inappropriate development and shortchanging the public process. Third, the proclamation required the BLM to create an advisory committee that would help inform the management planning process, but they have not done so.
Interior has also been misleading about the reason for the monument reductions. Though officials claimed that the monument reductions had nothing to do with energy development, they have moved hastily to open up new development opportunities. Outdoor Alliance’s GIS Lab maps plainly show the overlap between the reduced monument boundaries and exploitable energy resources such as oil, gas, and uranium (click on the image at right to view it full size).
And though Secretary Zinke vowed never to sell an inch of public lands, these plans originally propose selling off 1600 acres within the former boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante, including a parcel suspiciously located adjacent to land owned by Utah Representative, Mike Noel, a leading public land sell-off advocate. In the days since those plans were released, Interior walked back the plan to sell off these acres.
We are still at work analyzing the draft plans and the maps, but the plans are open to public comment, and we’ll help share some guidance and opportunities to engage as we learn more.