AP

Plan would allow drilling, grazing near national monument in Utah

Aug 23, 2019, 2:51 PM | Updated: 3:01 pm
FILE - This July 9, 2017 file photo, shows a view of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in...
FILE - This July 9, 2017 file photo, shows a view of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The U.S. government's final management plan for lands in and around the Utah national monument that President Donald Trump downsized is light on new protections for the cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and arches found there, but it does include a few more safeguards than were in a proposal last year. A summary the Bureau of Land Management provided to The Associated Press shows that the plan for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southwestern Utah codifies that the lands cut out of the monument will be open to mineral extraction such as oil, gas and coal as expected. (Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News via AP, File)
(Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new U.S. government management plan unveiled Friday clears the way for coal mining and oil and gas drilling on land that used to be off-limits as part of a sprawling national monument in Utah before President Donald Trump downsized the protected area two years ago.

The plan released by the Bureau of Land Management would also open more lands to cattle grazing and recreation and acknowledges there could be “adverse effects” on land and resources in the monument.

But while allowing more activities, the plan would also add a few safeguards for the cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and arches still inside Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that weren’t in a proposed plan issued last year.

Among them are opening fewer acres to ATVs and cancelling a plan that would have allowed people to collect some non-dinosaur fossils in certain areas.

The BLM says no land will be sold from the 1,345 square miles (3,488 square kilometers) that were cut from what had been the 3,000 square miles (7,770 square kilometers) of the monument.

Harry Barber, acting manager of the national monument, told The Associated Press the plan reflects changes made after considering input from the public and considering an assessment that there are enough protections already in place.

“There are people who graze livestock, people that like to hunt, people that like to hike, people that like to trail run,” said Barber, who has worked at the monument since it was created. “We’re trying to be fair.”

The plan is expected to go into effect after a public review period.

The monument has seen a 63% increase in visitors over the past decade, hosting 1.1 million people from October 2017 through September 2018, according to U.S. government figures.
Conservation and paleontology groups have filed ongoing lawsuits to stop the downsizing.

They say the new plan lacks adequate protections for the land and reiterated their concern that the years spent creating the plan were a waste of taxpayer resources because the lawsuits remain unresolved.

Steve Bloch, legal director at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance conservation group, said it’s unforgivable to cut the monument in half and downgrade the excluded lands to what he calls “garden variety public lands.”

“Grand Staircase-Escalante is one of the nation’s public land crown jewels and from the outset, the Trump administration was hell-bent on destroying this place,” Bloch said.
Barber stressed that protections will remain even though the lands are no longer within the monument.

“It’s not a free-for-all,” Barber said. “That seems to be what I hear a lot, people feeling like now anybody can go out and do anything they want to do on these lands. But, they need to realize that we still have our rules and policies.”

Thus far, market dynamics have limited interest in a large coal reserve found in the now unprotected lands.

But an economic analysis estimates coal production could lead to $208 million in annual revenues and $16.6 million in royalties for the U.S. government. Oil and gas wells in that area could produce $4.1 million in annual revenues, it says.

Barber said he’s excited that competitive events would be allowed in the monument under the BLM plan. A popular trail running race called the Grand to Grand Ultra has wanted to extend its course through parts of the monument and will now be able to seek permission, he said.

President Bill Clinton created the monument in 1996 using the Antiquities Act, which sets guidelines calling for the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management” of artifacts to be protected.

Trump cut the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante amid a review of 27 national monuments by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Trump also downsized Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by about 85%.

Trump said scaling back the two monuments reversed federal overreach. The move earned cheers from Republican leaders in Utah who lobbied him to undo protections by Democratic presidents that they considered overly broad.

Conservation groups have called Trump’s decision the largest elimination of protected land in American history.

David Polly, a paleontologist at Indiana University and past president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, said he’s relieved no fossil collection will be allowed inside the monument.

He had been worried that allowing people to take non-dinosaur fossils could have led to problems. Some items such as petrified wood can be hard to distinguish from dinosaur bones, he said.

“It may be accidentally encouraging people to end up breaking the rules,” Polly said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, in response to "macroeconomic cond...
MATT O'BRIEN, Associated Press

Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that had just notified employees of the layoffs, some of which begin immediately.
10 days ago
exxon mobil sign pictured...
SETH BORENSTEIN and CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press

Study: Exxon Mobil accurately predicted warming since 1970s

Exxon said its understanding of climate change evolved over the years and that critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.
16 days ago
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...
The Associated Press

Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours […]
18 days ago
President Joe Biden pictured...
ZEKE MILLER AP White House Correspondent

DOJ reviewing potentially classified docs at Biden center

Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered at the offices of the Penn Biden Center.
19 days ago
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: A poster advertising the launch of Prince Harry's memoir "Spare" is s...
Jill Lawless Associated Press

Prince Harry says explosive book is a bid to ‘own my story’

Prince Harry defended his decision to publish a memoir that lays bare rifts inside Britain’s royal family.
19 days ago
utah capitol, a new bill heading to lawmakers will affect the utah sex offender registry...
HANNAH SCHOENBAUM Associated Press/Report for America

States target transgender health care in first bills of 2023

After a record flow of anti-transgender legislation last year, Republican state lawmakers this year are zeroing in on questions of bodily autonomy.
21 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Plan would allow drilling, grazing near national monument in Utah