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Legislation for Esacalante National Monument Gets 1st Congressional Hearing

Screenshot from House Federal Lands Subcommitee.
Susan Hand of Willow Canyon Outdoor in Kanab joins many southern Utah businesses in opposing the changes to the national monument that has strengthened the local economy over the past 21 years.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, presented his bill Thursday to reconfigure what used to be the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Some state and local leaders want the 21-year-old national monument to be replaced.  Republican Congressman Chris Stewart’s legislation features such a proposal: the Escalante Canyons National Park.


“The bill protects these beautiful places in perpetuity for some for the best exploration and recreation on Earth," said Vicki Varela, who leads the Utah tourism office.

Vicki Varela oversees the award-winning Utah tourism office. She listed many branding opportunities made possible by adding a sixth national park in Utah, Escalante Canyons proposed in Rep. Chris Stewart's new bill.

Stewart’s bill follows last week’s presidential proclamations remaking two of Utah’s national monuments. Conservation groups and local businesses are suing.

Susan Hand, a Kanab small businesswoman, opposes the changes.

“The destruction of our monument threatens our economic future," she told the House federal lands subcommittee. "The stroke of a pen reduced our monument by half, severed it into fragments and diluted protections.”

Stewart's bill hasn't been up for a vote yet, and the controversial measure would have to pass both chambers of Congress before it can become law.



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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