In yet another instance of threat to our national parks, the Governor of Utah has signed a resolution that would significantly shrink the Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Gov. Herbert said then-President Bill Clinton included more land than necessary in his 1996 designation giving protected status to nearly 1.9 million acres. 

Gov. Gary Herbert is also working to petition the president to rescind the recently established Bears Ears National Monument. Obama, in last minute efforts to protect public lands, had designated two new national monuments – Gold Butte in Nevada and Bears Ears Buttes in southeastern Utah at the end of Dec 2016. The 1.35 million-acre expanse of arches, buttes, and canyons, which several Native American tribes regard as sacred, is the second public land under attack from Utah’s top politician.

Grand Staircase-Escalante sunset

Grand Staircase-Escalante Photo: Bob Wick, BLM California via Flickr

There has been significant backlash against both of these decisions. The outdoor-recreation industry plays a major role in Utah’s economy, supporting some 122,000 jobs and bringing in $12 billion a year in consumer spending.

Map of Proposed Bears Ears National Monument

Photo: The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

Outdoor gear company Patagonia has boycotted the Outdoor Retailer Show trade show to protest the shrinking of the Grand Staircase and, just weeks later began working on a campaign called ‘Defend Utah’s Public Lands’ to protect Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase.

Grand Staircase-Escalante clouds

Photo: Bob Wick, BLM California via Flickr
Grand Staircase-Escalante

The Defend Utah’s Public Lands website says that “this land grab would open wilderness and recreation areas to oil and gas development and could eliminate access to the diverse landscape that makes Utah unique.”

Prehistoric Granary overlooks Cedar Mesa.

Photo: Josh Ewing via The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

Instead of answering these campaigns Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is investigating a tweet that was sent out by Bryce Canyon NP the day after Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument.

The tweet read “Welcome to the family Bears Ears (& Gold Butte) NM! A hopeful slot in our front desk maps has long been held for you.”

Grand Staircase-Escalante moon

Grand Staircase-Escalante. Photo: Bob Wick, BLM California via Flickr

Chaffetz claims that the tweet could indicate that Utah’s elected officials were misled by the Obama administration. There has been backlash from Patagonia and Utah residents who find these claims unconscionable.

The Bears Ears Buttes framed with summer wild flowers.

Photo: Tim Peterson via The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

Bears Ears is an incredibly diverse region that holds thousands of Native American relics and burial grounds. The site also has some pretty spectacular views. The Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument is a big revenue booster for the state as it has been a national monument for over 20 years and holds the Outdoor Retailer Show which brings an estimated $20 million to the local economy.

Petroglyph graces the Comb Ridge.

Photo: Josh Ewing via The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, who works in the coal-mine production industry, said that if the Staircase had not been made a national monument, an underground coal mine would have opened – impacting just 100 acres above ground – that could have provided full-time jobs.

How You Can Help

For more information on how to save protected national nature reserves and monuments check out the Activist Toolkit for Defending Wildlands in Trump’s America. It provides tips on how to contact your members of Congress, using social media, organizing events and more.

You can also go onto the Defend Utah’s Public Lands site or the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition site to sign the petitions to help protect Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase.

Every voice counts. Add yours now.

Valley of the Gods, seen at first light from the air.

Photo: Adriel Heisey via The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

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