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Grand Staircase Resolutions Underscore Continuing Distrust

Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Garfield County commissioners are set to look at a resolution Tuesday to reconsider the size and shape of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Kane County has already endorsed the idea with a commission-passed measure to begin a dialog with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management about the monument and its boundaries.

Kane County Commissioner Dirk Clayson says the BLM should take local voices into account. “I think we just want to simply open the box, look inside and ask some questions,” he says. “What’s working? What’s not working.”

Then-President Bill Clinton didn’t consult Utah political leaders or local residents when he used the Antiquities Act to create the 1.9-million-acre monument. Two decades later, the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument continues to be giant, festering sore in federal relations.

That bitterness was on full display last Monday at the Kane County Commission meeting.

Noel Poe of the Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, a local friends-of-the-monument organization, was there. He says supporters distrust the commission’s latest moves, because they want to see the monument remain intact for the benefit for all Americans and the world. But Poe worries they’ll be excluded from the discussions.

“Our politicians have gotten us in a position where, you know, we’re bordering on hating each other, and that’s not a good place to be,” he says. “We need to set down and talk.”

State lawmakers on Wednesday passed House Concurrent Resolution 12, which directs Kane and Garfield counties to begin discussions with the BLM. The measure also asks Utah’s delegation in Congress to seek federal legislation to cut the monument’s boundary to the minimum area necessary.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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