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Congress Snubs Rep. Chris Stewart's Grand Staircase Legislation - For Now

Picture of two people enjoying a vista.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Two people admire a vista at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which would be reconfigured under legislation by U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. Stewart now says Congress won’t take up the bill this year. ";

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said Thursday that Congress will not pass his bill this year on managing public land in the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

“Realistically, we’re not going to get it through this Congress,” he told the state Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands. “We’re optimistic in the next Congress.”

The legislation codifies a proclamation by President Donald Trump that eased management protections on over 700,000 acres. The area includes redrock scenery and rugged recreation spots, as well as historic and prehistoric sites that would be contained in three national monuments and new national park and preserve that would be managed by a commission comprised of local leaders.

But the legislation, which is cosponsored by the three other Utahns in the U.S. House of Representatives, has languished in a congressional subcommittee all year without a vote. The Republican leaders on the stewardship commission offered their help and asked the congressman what they can do.

“We need some Senate advocates,” Stewart responded. “So please, for those of you are supportive of this, let’s reach out to your friends in the Senate and see if they can get an advocate there who will help us.”

Conservation and business groups have panned Stewart’s bill. Ashley Soltysiak, executive director of the Utah Sierra Club, said easing protections - as the legislation and the presidential proclamation do, opens the door to mining and other extractive development.

“Even in areas that remain within the monument, these [management] plans show that the protections would be minimized and would almost certainly result in damage and degradation to cultural sites, recreation value, archaeological resources and wilderness characteristics,” she said.

Soltysiak said the American public and Utahns support restrictions on new roads and development in the areas that were originally protected by the 1996 presidential proclamation that limited development of 1.9 million acres.

The Trump administration reduced the monument boundaries during a State Capitol ceremony on Dec. 4, 2017, prompting lawsuits that are still pending in federal court.


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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