Julie Gaynor Hagenbuch: Don’t let National Monuments be paradise lost

Forty years ago while driving through, I fell in love with Grand Staircase. I was well on my way to an oil exploration career. In 1996, Grand Staircase Escalante became a National Monument.

Utah Congressman Chris Stewart has introduced bills with enticing sounding names that would do just the opposite of what they say. HR 4558 would codify the recent executive orders to reduce boundaries of GSENM.

Stewart’s bill would transfer the Hole in the Rock Road to Utah and create a management council of local officials. Does anyone think Routt County commissioners would be good National Park or National Monument managers? What scares me is all access roads have been removed from GSENM.

GSENM is being destroyed in spite of the strong support for retaining the monument boundaries by Utah, local towns and the western states. Over 90 percent of Boulder/Escalante Chamber members want to save Grand Staircase. According to reports from the Outdoor Alliance, employment, personal income, per capita income and population have increased significantly in the adjoining counties, Kane and Garfield, since the monument was designated (Bureau Economic Analysis).

According to the BLM website, ‘”The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument contains one of the most important fossil records. Twenty new dinosaur species discovered since 2000 are new to science.”

HR 4532 would cause similar legislative gutting of Bears Ears National Monument. Utah Congressman John Curtis did not meet with any tribal officials even though he pledged to meet with all stakeholders.

The Salt Lake City Tribune Editorial Board wrote, “Bears Ears National Monument is the product of a unique alliance of five Indian nations that trace their ancestry to the sacred Bears Ears buttes and their surrounding lands. Those nations gave the governor and Utah’s congressional delegation every opportunity to embrace their desires and work through a legislative process, but Utah’s leaders flatly refused, thereby pushing the tribes toward President Obama and the Antiquities Act.”

These swipes at public lands cost Utah it’s largest convention and wounded a growing manufacturing sector that fed off that convention. What will the effect be for domestic and European travelers? Will they boycott Utah?

Uses in the monuments previously and presently are hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, hunting, timber and grazing. Taking away the Monument status allows for mining and oil and gas extraction.

Southwest Utah has some of the most breathtaking land and has been called a rugged desolate paradise.  It has places to go where there is an absence of noise and abundance of dark skies, with only the stars and the moon to light your way.

Let these gems not be paradise lost. Call Rep. Scott Tipton 970-241-2499 and Sen. Cory Gardner 970-245-9553 and tell them to preserve Grand Staircase and Bears Ears National Monuments by voting “no” on HR 4532 and HR4558.

Julie Gaynor Hagenbuch

Steamboat Springs

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