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.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

TikTok shown on a phone. TikTok is proving influential in poliitics...
DAVID KLEPPER Associated Press

TikTok politics: Candidates turn to it ‘for better or worse’

TikTok isn't just about viral dance challenges anymore, but also a place to shop, learn about beauty, fashion or even politics.
3 days ago
Damage from Hurricane Ian...
ADRIANA GOMEZ-LICON Associated Press

Ian returns to hurricane status, meanwhile floods trap many in Florida

Hours after weakening to a tropical depression while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening after emerging over the Atlantic Ocean.
4 days ago
An uprooted tree, toppled by strong winds from the outer bands of Hurricane Ian, rests in a parking...
CURT ANDERSON Associated Press

Ian makes landfall in southwest Florida as Category 4 storm

About 2.5 million people had been ordered to evacuate the area before the storm hit the coast on Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (241 kph).
5 days ago
The White House to ask for less money to fund border wall...
ACACIA CORONADO and GISELA SALOMON Associated Press

Increase in Venezuelan migration is felt across US

Last month, Venezuelans surpassed Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second-largest nationality stopped at the U.S. border after Mexicans.
7 days ago
In Iran, protests have led to violent clashes between citizens and security forces. Protesters pict...
The Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

The scope of Iran's ongoing unrest, the worst in several years, still remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities.
10 days ago
U.S. Capitol pictured. The House just voted on an election law...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

House passes election law overhaul in response to Jan. 6

The bill, which is similar to bipartisan legislation moving through the Senate, would overhaul an arcane 1800s-era statute known as the Electoral Count Act
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Plan would allow drilling, grazing near national monument in Utah