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Health, Science & Environment

National Monuments Review Prompts Over A Million Comments To Trump Administration

Judy Fahys
The Boulder Escalante Chamber of Commerce organized a rally and protest when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declined to meet with them while visiting in Utah in May. Zinke was inside the fence at the Kanab Airport, preparing to fly home.

Restaurateur Blake Spalding, like many other national monument supporters, has been urging visitors to her Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, to share their thoughts about possible changes the Trump administration is pondering for national monuments.  The review of 27 monuments includes the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument nearby.

A web site fielding that input logged more than 1.4 million entries from people and organizations before the comment period ended midnight Monday.

“We’re all on pins and needles,” says Spaulding. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. It feels really unstable and really uncertain and uncomfortable and …. dispiriting.”

Spalding is one of around 150 local business owners who want the national monuments to stay intact.

But many of Utah’s Republican elected officials and rural county commissioners favor changes. The want the 20-year-old Grand Staircase to shrink and the months-old Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County to be rescinded. It’s the message opponents have been sharing with the Trump administration -- oftentimes in face-to-face meetings that have left out local monument supporters like Spalding.

“They’re hearing from the Utah delegation that there’s an economic crisis in Garfield and Kane County because of the monument,” she says. “In fact, we’re in an economic boom.”

Spalding calls the monument a big reason for the $78 million in tourist revenues generated in the county last year.

“And, so, for them to mess with that just seems so reckless to me,” she says.

Native American and environmental groups, like many gateway community businesses leaders, have been encouraged their supporters to share their views about preserving the monuments.

One environmental group says the comment count is really closer to 2.5 million. That’s because multiple comments from sportsmen and conservation groups were bundled and counted as one. The group also did a representative tally of the comments that showed all but two percent of all them favor protecting the monument.

The Interior Department’s final recommendations to President Trump are expected later this year.

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