In Trump’s administration nearly nothing in nature is off-limits to fossil fuel development. The Trump administration recently released a new resource management plan for Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area that would open up hundreds of thousands of acres of protected lands to mining and drilling. President Trump signed a presidential proclamation to modify the boundaries of the monument which removes protection from 861,974 acres of land.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is 1.9 million acres of land in Utah. In 1996, then-President Bill Clinton designated the area a U.S. national monument through the Antiquities Act. The Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Interior Department, manages it. The area features rock formation that attracts tourists. Over 20 dinosaur species have been discovered there. The region holds significance to Native American tribes.
There are lawsuits pending about the legality of Trump’s decision to reduce national monuments. Conservation groups and tribes have sued the administration. Trump’s new plan to reduce the monuments comes at a time when he may not have the legal power to do so. As Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project, said, “Trump already broke the law when he illegally reduced two national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act.” He added that the Trump administration “chose to use taxpayer dollars on this wasteful and useless management plan.”
The bottom line is that the Trump administration acted illegally when it stripped the lands of Grand Staircase-Escalante of national monument status,” said Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, in a statement.
“With this plan, Bernhardt’s Interior is clearly trying to let in mining and drilling before a court can overturn the rollbacks.”
Congressional Democrats oppose the plan to shrink the monument, including Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). “The Trump administration is wasting taxpayer dollars that should go to protecting our public lands and using them to open important places to destructive fossil fuel extraction,” he said. “This is a dangerous precedent for all our national monuments, and everyone who supports our public lands should be concerned about this shameless giveaway campaign.”
The Government Accountability Office opened an investigation in June
Back in June, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) announced that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) will open an investigation into whether the Interior Department is violating “longstanding prohibitions” against using appropriated for fossil fuel development within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s boundaries. The investigation will look into whether the Interior’s identification of areas for oil, gas, and coal development within the historic boundaries of the monument is illegal.
“In the interest of preserving the rule of law, safeguarding taxpayer funds from mismanagement, and protecting a national treasure from permanent damage, the department should suspend all further work on the proposed management plan for Grand Staircase-Escalante until GAO is able to make a determination on this issue,” said Udall.
What you can do
There is something you can do to let the Trump administration know you oppose shrinking the monument. You can leave a public comment. The new plan is open to a 30-day protest period which ends on September 23, 2019.