|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||Tonya Auden Stiles, Moab, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
agar gg A MONUMENTAL IDEA? Almost four years after Clinton's proclamation, an update on Escalante/Grand Staircase N.M By Susan Tixier Sitting in my back yard, in the shadow of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), now four years old, I ponder whether or not the designation by President Clinton in September of 1996 was a "good thing.” After all, this was the first time in history that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is being asked to manage a National Monument and, since there are now several other Monumental additions to that responsibiltiy, Messrs. Babbitt and Clinton might consider some feedback. There’s some evidence of positive economic affect in my small town of Escalante--on. a walk ‘round town I see a new roof here and there, a new barn, some new fencework, new (American!) SUVs. There are some rather spectacular new homes going up, NOT in cookie-cutter housing projects, but on family land, personally planned and built. No teeshirt shops have appeared on Main Street. There’s nothing much new for the tourists who come to town to see, or buy. One might guess that the GSENM has been a boon to the towns in southern Utah that anchor this 1.9 million acres of slickrock, slot canyons, and sandy desert uplands to the outside world. In fact, I have heard that the agency budget for the area has increased 5-fold since before the Monument was named and a good chunk of that money surely eventually falls into the bank accounts of some of the local folks, as lessees, seasonals, shop-owners, and mechanics. Not that the local people are changing their anti-Monument, anti-government minds. The Monument increases their taxes-- property taxes have gone up because the outsiders are paying more for property, although one assumes they’re buying from someone local. There are rules and regulations on land that these people have used for years, for at least three generations, for picnicking, for horseback (read: ATV) riding, and as their own. The new reservoir (see: They Eat Greens in Escalante) is the first objection to the Monument out of many mouths. There is a shortage of water. Except for the Monument, there would be a reservoir. She goes on to say that "although the monument plan is not perfect, it is way out in front of other land management plans for BLM in Utah." Move 3 more cautious spaces. It appears that the BLM-managed Monument is a step in the right direction, inside the document and out. Take a free roll. The Management Plan is almost a coffee-table book. Whoops, wait. There are no grazing decisions made in the management plan. And the plan doesn’t really adequately address oil and gas development, or other mineral leases, or the mining claims that currently exist on the lands within the monument. Move back 3 big spaces! And you lose a roll! The agency is considering a zirconium and titanium mine and processing plant right inside the Monument, in the Carcass Canyon. Noise, trucks, many trucks, 24-hour operation, and the industrial use of scarce water (remember the reservoir discussion?) is not what we would expect to find in a Monument. And "titles" are worrisome. A Monument by any other name is NOT still a Monument. There has been a bill moving about Congress that would designate the San Rafael Swell in central Utah as a “National Conservation Area" - an "NCA." The bill is the "San Rafael Western Legacy District and National Conservation Act." BIG title. For the people who care about protecting this remarkable piece of land, giving it an important-sounding name like "National Conservation Area" sounds like a good thing. The facts are that if the bill Period. People here are not happy with outsiders coming in to live or to visit, not happy with BLM or the staff people who are here, not happy with the federal government, the state government (Gov. Leavitt was "in on it") or the Congressional representatives. They‘re not happy, but prosperity is sneaking up on the people of southern Utah, due in some part to the GSENM, and there are not many who are leaving town. If the measure of the effectiveness of the GSENM is the people whose lives are being most impacted on a daily basis, it’s a wash... Times have changed the details, but this part of the country has been dependent upon the largesse of the federal government in many ways fora very long time. That won't change; I was warned long ago "not to tell us what we want" and I am not now going to insult good people by saying that despite their objections, the Monument will be good for them. Whether or not it is, is simply not the point. The Monument is on land that is now, and has always been, federal land. The better way to determine whether Clinton did a "good thing" whether or not he is leaving a legacy he can be proud of, is to look at the larger, national picture. If you imagine a public lands monopoly board and the Monument piece is being moved along the board from the cheap rent squares, Mediterranean Avenue to Broadway or Park Place, one could suggest that a BLM-managed Monument might be on the lower right-hand side of the board, to start with. The BLM is not an agency known for its conscientious ecosystem protection policies. Born from a wedding of the Grazing Service and the General Land Office, an agency whose principal function was to dispose of public lands, the BLM long has been beleaguered to favor the private industries that relied on public lands to wrest some profit as Americans settled the West. It wasn’t until 1976 that the federal government finally decided that the lands administered by this agency were to be retained in federal ownership. (Recall that the on administration acted to sell public lands to “help pay thenational debt"). No, if one were going for a certain je ne sais quoi, some class, a Monument would be National Park Service. There is a general sense that parks are for protection. No cows. (Except in Utah and Nevada!) No hunting. (Almost) no ATVs, snowmobiles, or motorized watercraft. Postcards. Collectors items. Kiosks and visitors’ centers. Designated and improved camping facilities. In fact, most Monuments are managed by the National Park Service. On the other hand, according to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the charge given to BLM was the "... management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the needs of the American people...a combination of uses that takes into account the long term needs of future generations for renewable and non-renewable resources, including, but not limited to, recreation, range, timber, minerals, watershed, wildlife and fish, and natural scenic, scientific and historical values...harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources without permanent impairment of the productivity of the land and the environment with consideration being given to the relative values of the resources and not necessarily to the combination of uses that will give the. greatest economic return or the greatest unit input." Move 6 spaces. The BLM preparing for this Monumental A National Monument is Proclamation to protect objects 1906. Almost every president A National Monument is a special area of public land set aside by Presidential Proclamation to protect objects of scientific or historic interest under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Almost every president, since Teddy Roosevelt used the Act to protect the Grand Canyon. has designated Monuments. becomes law, the "Swell" is legally open for unchecked ARV abuse, miles and miles of illicit ORV routes are legalized, and the now pristine areas of it are forever destroyed, never to qualify for REAL protection as designated Wilderness. This NCA would be managed by the same BLM that is managing the Monuments. Back 6 moves. Way back. Even though the agency is moving away from the old industrial uses like grazing (The U.S. Supreme Court Decision, in a unanimous decision, upheld the Department of Interior’s position that grazing permits are "privileges," not "rights." And mining, another industry is roaring over yonder horizon--tourism, the mechanized kind. Off-road vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, jet-skis are capable of access to every square mile of public lands and waters. People who support their use on public lands would never let them rip up their lawns, or drive around in their churches or museums, or sacrifice their backyards to let their kids tear around on them while the baby slept. And yet BLM, moving from past mistakes towards a more public user friendly future, hasn‘t had the wherewithall to protect their lands from this extreme industral tourism. Beware of BLM bearing gifts. NCA, NRA ("National Recreation Area"), ACEC (Area of Critical Environmental Concern)—whatever the title is, if it is not Congressionally designated Wilderness, it is not fully protected. A Monument may bea critical step in the right direction: the public consciousness is raised, the agency manages for protection of the ecosystem, destructive uses are curtailed, and should be able to manage a Monument, could have been moment for the last 25 years. a special area of public land set aside by Presidential of scientific or historic interest under the Antiquities Act of since Teddy Roosevelt used the Act to protect the Grand Canyon has designated Monuments, to be managed by the Park Service. Only Congress can designate a National Park, or a Wilderness. The intrepid step of bringing BLM’s potential for protection of the resources to the challenge of managing a unit of lands with a title on the door moves us around the corner, to a classier street. The challenge has been taken up by BLM. Now, the devil will be found in the detail. We might lose board ground here, because the management plans are based on the Proclamation. And the Proclamation can shape the protection future of the Monument important natural resources are revived. Without full public input, hovering over every management plan, suspicious questioning of every action under the plan, and continued, vigorous support for real protection under the Wilderness Act, a Monument is simply a step along the way. The management plans are Citizens’ comments are being ecosystems. And people across because these places now have not published yet for the other, newer, BLM Monuments. requested. Scientists are in the field, studying these rare the country now know about some special named places titles. This is where we draw a card, because the fear of industrial tourism on these heretofore unspecified, un-named lands is considerable. On the other hand, now Americans will know, love, and want togee these special places that did not have but the most = #24 lands, or it'can just paint the-name,on the door, with nothing behind it. Liz Thomas has S28 discussed the newly published GSENM in the SUWA newsletter, Redrock Wilderness, Spring 2000. She bégins by saying that this plan "sets a higher standard for how BLM lands non-motorized human action’ i tess ena all across Utah should be managed." they are the tourists!) aie ree know tht ‘mors people: mean more development, more 'trailheads,-roads,signs, and less solitude and quiet..(And,.