When we began work on our second cookbook, This Immeasurable Place, we called it “a love letter to the monument,” thinking of our beautiful home in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We had no idea that by the time our book came out, that same monument would be under threat.
Last year, the Trump administration announced plans to shrink the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) to half its original size and cut the rest into small pieces, opening it up to extractive mining. Bears Ears National Monument would also be reduced, threatening tribal sacred lands. A lot of our visitors have asked us what this means, so here’s a bit of information.
+ What is the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument?
In 1996, President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, under the Antiquities Act. The Monument is nearly 1.9 million acres of beautiful wilderness and was the first national monument to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Over the last 20 years, Grand Staircase-Escalante has claimed its place as a crown jewel, renowned for its remarkable paleontological discoveries, stunning scenery, and outstanding adventures. Grand Staircase-Escalante has yielded 21 new species of dinosaur (including the oldest tyrannosaurus fossil ever found) and provides habitat for 650 bee species. GSENM also has vast historical significance, with ancient Native American ruins and rock art throughout.
The GSENM is home to incredible camping, hiking, and other recreational opportunities. Places like Calf Creek, Peekaboo & Spooky Canyons, and the Hole in the Rock Road are known worldwide.
+ How has the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument impacted local communities?
Monuments benefit communities of the rural West. Headwaters Economics (2014) found that over the last 40 years, counties with at least 30 percent of land with federal protection enjoyed 262 percent more job growth than rural counties without the benefit of federally-protected land.
Since the creation of GSENM, Garfield and Kane Counties (home to the Monument) have seen increases in tourism, new businesses, population growth, and higher per-capita income. Our county of 5,000 people stretches over 5,000 acres and in 2016 brought in 87 million dollars from tourism-based revenue alone.
From 2015-2016, Escalante Visitor Center visitation increased by 51%. The economies surrounding the Monument are thriving, and good jobs are plentiful.
For example, Hell’s Backbone Grill owns and operates a 6.5-acre farm where we grow produce for the restaurant. Between our restaurant and farm, we provide high-quality training and well-paying jobs for nearly 50 of Boulder’s 250 residents. Our businesses would not exist without the GSENM, and polls consistently demonstrate strong local and national support for the GSENM.
+ What about cattle grazing?
A common misconception about the GSENM is that the monument status does not allow for grazing. On the contrary, grazing on the Grand Staircase is governed by rules and regulations that pre-date the Monument. Indeed, 96.4 percent of the GSENM remains open for grazing. Local rancher’s grazing privileges are protected under the covenants of the GSENM.
+ So why is the government trying to shrink the the monument?
Recently, The New York Times reported that a key part of Interior Secretary Zinke and President Trump’s decision to review and shrink Bears Ears and GSENM was their coal, oil, and gas potential. In particular, the GSENM’s Kaiparowits Plateau, home to a trove of dinosaur fossils, contains a large coal deposit. Uranium mining is understood to have influenced the reduction of Bears Ears.
+ What’s the deal with the proposed Escalante Canyons National Park?
One day after Trump announced plans to shrink the monument, Utah Representative Chris Stewart put forth legislation to create three smaller national monuments and one national park out of the remaining GSENM. We oppose the proposed national park, Escalante Canyons National Park, as a false promise. Its creation seeks to distract from the shrinking of protected land and the potential mineral extraction from an ecologically and culturally significant landscape.
The proposed national park would not truly protect land for the national public. Every other park is managed by the National Park Service, a government agency. The proposed Escalante Canyons National Park would instead be led by a “management council” made up of four local county commissioners, one Utah State legislator, one Interior Department employee, and one presidential appointee. This arrangement takes management out of public hands and favors local political interests, not necessarily aligned with the nation—or even the surrounding communities.
+ How can I help support and protect this immeasurable place?
Our historic Monument is at risk of new roads, exploitation by extractive industry, and transfer to the State of Utah. We must have a plan that listens to citizens and protects our natural landscape and cultural landmarks. While these attacks are being challenged in court, we need your voice!
- Tell your member of Congress to support enacting a bill protecting all national monuments.
- Support organizations which are fighting to defend our wild places.
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
Utah Sierra Club
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners
- Support political candidates in important races who will protect our monuments.
-Vote for Shireen Ghorbani to unseat Rep. Chris Stewart in Utah’s 2nd District
-Vote for Marsha Hollandin the Utah House of Representatives District 73
-Vote for Ben McAdams for US Congress in Utah’s 4th District
- Most important, call or write in support of the Monument to:
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, (202) 208-3100, Twitter: @RyanZinke
Utah Governor Gary Herber, (801) 538-1000