I write regarding Ryan Zinke’s recommendation to reduce two national monuments in Utah. I am not well-versed on many of the monuments under review nationwide, but lived and worked in Utah for many years, and feel knowledgeable about the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Grand Staircase-Escalante is a magnificent and beautiful place, and deserves some level of protection. However, at almost 1.9 million acres (roughly the size of Delaware) it is a huge area. Located on BLM lands, even its own land managers concede it’s highly difficult to manage (made even more so given cuts under Bush and Obama administrations).
In the counties the monument occupies, Garfield County is almost 93 percent federally owned, and Kane County, nearly 90 percent. These rural counties face challenges maintaining economic opportunities with large percentages of federal ownership and restriction to land use, and reasonably felt they were put under additional pressures from the monument, which further restricted resource-based opportunities, particularly mining, which could have been permitted on the BLM land.
Tourism jobs have been added, but as many Montanans know, these jobs seldom produce year-round, good-paying or benefit-offering opportunities for families.
In two counties stretched thin, Clinton’s creation of the monument, in his last days of office, under the Antiquities Act, did not thoroughly consider the challenges of these communities to maintain jobs or what size would be sustainable for the long-term management of the monument itself.
It does not seem unreasonable for Zinke to review this monument for possible reduction in size, which could, in effect, better allocate its resources for better management and resource protection, and allow for a better look at these counties’ economic needs.
From my knowledge of this one monument, it seems rational and reasonable that it be reviewed.