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Resolution To Shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Advances

Erik Neumann
Utah State Senators Gene Davis, Ralph Okerlund and Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser discussed H.C.R. 12 on Wednesday.

The Utah Senate passed a resolution Wednesday that asks Congress to shrink the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Last week, Governor Herbert signed a similar resolution asking President Trump to rescind the newly minted Bears Ears National Monument. Member of Utah’s congressional delegation hope the legislation will help them in fight over federal control of lands. 

Democratic Senator Gene Davis discussed the non-binding resolution which would ask Congress to create a process to reevaluate the size of the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument designated by President Clinton in the nineteen nineties. He says it’s something many Southern Utah residents are opposed to.

"If there’s a way to alleviate the hatred and everything down in that area for another generation, then this would be an appropriate thing to do. It does not ask Congress to do away with the monument," Davis said.

Republican Ralph Okerlund is the resolution’s floor sponsor. He says it would create a process similar to Congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative, bringing together multiple stakeholders like the organizers of the Outdoor Retailer show and residents of Kane and Garfield counties to define areas in the monument that should be protected for recreation and others that could be made available for economic development like coal mining.

Democratic Senators Jim Dabakis and Luz Escamilla debated the projected economic benefits of shrinking the monument and the financial obligation it would put on the State of Utah to manage these lands.

Leaders of the Outdoor Industry Association have been so opposed to Utah legislators’ efforts to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument that they’ve threatened to relocate their annual trade show out of state. Senator Okerlund expressed his interest in including the group in the discussion about Grand Staircase-Escalante.

"Having the threat of them pulling out because we would like to have a say in the lands in our state is something we would like to discuss with them," Okerlund said. 

The non-binding resolution passed with 25 Senators in favor and four against. It now heads to Governor Herbert for his signature.

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