Our Treasure, Our Future – Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

National Monuments Review Sample Comment Scripts for the Savvy Citizen.

 Protect Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

ACTION ALERT: public comment period open for Interior Department’s National Monuments Review–Submit Comments for Bears Ears before May 26, 2017; all others before July 10, 2017. Click here to submit:  Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996

The following is a sample comment submission. Please do not cut and paste!  Edit the script to make it your own and add personal commentary.  These scripts are designed to inform and are for inspiration and ideas! For ideas on how to write a strong submission, click here: “Suggested Outline or “Hot Topic” Review List for Comments.” 

Protect Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument – Sample Script by Guest Contributor J.C. for Friday, May 26, 2017:

I am writing to voice my support for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument  (GSENM) as legally designated by President Clinton under the Antiquities Act.

First, I request that Department of Interior   (DOI) respect the integrity of the Antiquities Act itself; a law passed by Congress and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt,  and the right of a sitting President of the United States to protect antiquities under this act. The right for a President to designate lands under the Antiquities Act had been affirmed by the US Supreme Court.

GSENM has been an established monument since 1996. Proposals for protection of this unique, priceless area of our national landscape, our history and our responsibility to preserve for future generations goes back to the 1930s. The Bureau of Land Management  (BLM) web pages shows a map of the proposed “Escalante National Monument” that is twice the size of the current GSENM boundaries and extends east across the Colorado River. This proposal recognized a region, an ecosystem of land and antiquities that should have been protected at that time. Now we have piecemeal protection through smaller areas of monuments and other federal designations that represent the absolute minimum that we need to preserve for the future. The current GSENM boundaries need to stay intact.

GSENM is not hurting the local economy. Instead it has put Garfield County on the map. Nearby Bryce Canyon National Park is world famous and a must see for everyone touring the southwest. Now, with GSENM, instead of heading on south to Zion or north to Capitol Reef national parks visitors  are heading east – through the towns of Tropic, Henryville, and Escalante – and then on to Boulder. The Deseret News just published an article (May 22nd 2017) lauding the efforts of a rich businessman, John D. Rockefeller, who recognized the importance of our parks, our public lands – lands and worked with the National Park Service to create Grand Tetons National Park as a compliment to Yellowstone National Park.  Grand Teton is a park that, thanks to his efforts, we – you, me, all Americans and our grandchildren can enjoy appreciate into the future. Without those efforts the Tetons might well be locked up in private ownership – a place for no one but the rich. GSENM was already federal land and is now a functioning monument. The economy of Jackson Hole? It’s doing very well.

Yes, there is coal in GSENM. And because of the work of many, Americans are enjoying an intact, wild national monument and not an area ruined by short term resource extraction. People do not come to Utah, to Bryce Canyon National Park and to GSENM to see land ruined by strip mining. They do not come and spend money to get stuck behind coal trucks or drive on coal haul roads. And what is happening to coal? It is being out competed by natural gas to the point that the Kayenta Strip mine, a hundred miles or so to the south in Black Mesa Arizona is shutting down. Not because of a “war on coal” – DOIs words, not mine – but because coal can’t compete with natural gas, period. Should we trade the protected land of the Kaiparowits Plateau so that shareholders can make a few dollars shipping coal to Asia? And those mining jobs at Black Mesa are being lost – while the economy of the area near GSENM is increasing and is sustainable.

PLEASE RESPECT THE DESIGNATION OF GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT as it was legally designated under the Antiquities Act. It  belongs to our children, yours and mine –  and our children’s children. GSENM belongs to our future and the future of all Americans. This land, left intact for future generations, is what we have to leave for them.

Research Links and References (below these links is some more personal information and observations on GSENM).

GSENM – Background/Geology Info and Great Photo Tour

Utah Tourism Board – Grand Staircase-Escalante

BLM’s Web Page on GSE

Utah State Land Sales:




Our Public Lands Info Against State Land Purchase

More on Coal Development:

The Kaiparowits Plateau in the heart of the GSENM has large quantities of high grade coal. Another, smaller coal mine, the Alton Mine- currently open on private  land south west of Bryce Canyon has tried for years to expand onto federal land. It has been stopped due to its proximity to Bryce Canyon Nat Park. These coal fields have been the focus of intense environmental battles since the 1970s at least. Designation of GSENM stopped Kaiparowits mining in 1996. During Zinke’s recent visit the Utah delegation took him specifically to these coal seams in Smoky Mt. Viability of Utah’s coal – mostly destined for foreign export, and currently mined mostly from central and north-east Utah depends on transportation to a port. They were looking to purchase an interest in a port under development in Oakland Ca.


Cedar City Utah – Local View of Pro Coal/Anti GSENM:

The reason that GSENM is still a spectacular wild area not strip mined and criss-crossed by coal trucks is the courageous fight of activists back in the 1970s. It culminated with Robert Redford doing an interview on 60 Minutes showing the entire country the land we would lose in trade for a strip mine. He was hung in effigy in Kanab for his efforts, but the coal mine was stopped. There is another coal mine with proposals to expand that comes up every few years  It is in view of Bryce Canyon National Park. So far the public outcry to that expansion has prevented the expansion.


Better article from the Cedar City Spectrum. Includes Zinke talk video – http://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/local/2017/05/10/culture-war-grand-staircase/101534964/

“But some locals, several hundred of whom gathered Wednesday in Kanab to protest any proposals to rescind or shrink the monument, argue the monument has been a boon, attracting tourists and new move-ins from all over the world.

“They’re not coming here to see coal mines. They’re coming to see national parks and monuments,” said Victor Cooper, who has owned the Rocking V Cafe in Kanab since 2000.”

Very Similar Spectrum article but with more dire warning – http://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/2017/05/12/zinke-hints-changes-bears-ears-grand-staircase-escalante/101573144

Zinke/Trump Focus on Coal:

Great Article – Extremely Important that Goes to the heart of the lie that we need to be exploiting our Public Lands for coal. The Black Mesa Mine is about a hundred miles south of the Utah Monuments. It has been in operation since the 1960s and has plenty of coal left. It is shutting down, not due to environmental regs but because Natural Gas outcompetes its. Period.


And NPR on Coal’s Future: Everyone is moving away from Coal


NPR  MarketPlace on Wyoming Coal:


“Natural gas is in competition for power generation,” Hladky said. “The downturn in coal was less to do with regulation by the federal government and more to do with the price of natural gas.”

Environmental Justice – long term outlook for coal


EENEWS: On monuments effects on economy – you have to read the whole thing. Many locals hate the monuments – because they stop coal development. Local businesses say the monuments are drawing business. https://www.eenews.net/stories/106004027

“Yet in Escalante, which borders the monument to the north, business owners are brimming with optimism.

Protection for Grand Staircase-Escalante sinuous canyons, smoldering coal seams and ancient fossil troves has supported local hotels, restaurants and outfitters along Scenic Byway 12, the main east-west route along the Monuments northern boundary.

Local developers are scrambling to build new homes. A new hardware store opened three years ago, and the town’s only theater — the 1938 Escalante Showhouse — was recently refurbished.

In Utah as a whole, 45 percent of voters think creation of the monument was a good thing, compared with 25 percent who said it was a bad thing, according to a poll this year led by Colorado College.

“People are moving here for the monument,” argues Nate Waggoner, 38, whose family owns Escalante Outfitters, a lodging, food, retail and guide service on the town’s main drag. “They’re here because they want to live in a beautiful place.”

Andalax Coal Mine 1990s

Garfield Utah Public Meeting

SLT Monument Economics


Go to BLM.gov and type in Bears Ears Map 1936. https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/national-monuments/utah/bears-ears/1936-proposed-map

The page that comes up shows an old paper map titled “Proposed Escalante National Monument”. The land area depicted on the map covers pretty much the area that is now represented by two monuments; the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante (GSE) as well as land with other designations including Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Capitol Reef National Park is noticeably missing from this map. It was that long ago, back before World War II, before Glen Canyon Dam, before the Interstate Highway system existed that people recognised the importance of this region as a singular area of antiquities and spectacular wildlands, an area of the southwest worthy of protection for future generations. It is interesting to look at this map, to see that the Colorado River is included as it should be – as part of an intact ecosystem – and separately managed entities.

Grand Staircase – Escalante, dedicated as a national monument in 1996, is the land west of the Colorado; canyon and plateau country that lays in between Bryce Canyon National Park and the Colorado River. When you visit Bryce Canyon and marvel at the park’s signature pink towers, the backdrop to the east of reddish cliffs and remote canyons – that is the Escalante Country. What you are not looking at are coal strip mines and mine access roads, heavy equipment and the dust from coal trucks. One mine location near Bryce is proposed and shot down about every five years. The other is in coal seams located on that far horizon of the Kaiparowits Plateau. The Kaiparowits coal strip mine  was stopped by a nationwide outcry in the 1970s. You can thank the Sierra Club and many other organizations who fought tirelessly to protect that area. You can also thank Robert Redford who brought national attention to the proposed mine and the damage it would bring to this priceless landscape through his work, culminating in an interview on 60 minutes. For his efforts Mr Redford was hung in effigy in Kanab Utah. He responded by building his film Institute, Sundance, in Park City Utah and filming his 1979 movie “The Electric Horseman” in Zion National Park – advertising and bringing business to the area in the process. Strip mining the Kaiparowits resurfaced in the 1990s with the Axalon Mine. Another intense battle ensued.

My experiences with this area all occurred before the monument designation. In the mid 1970s I was on a trip across the west. Someone had to told us that once we got to Bryce Canyon National Park to not spend much time there. They told us to head east to the town of Escalante and then to leave the paved roads. So we did. Somewhere down Cottonwood Canyon road, a dirt highway leading off into a sandstone wilderness we pulled off and threw sleeping bags on the ground. We lay down and watched the most amazing star filled sky shot with ragged white clouds and a bright moon, the strangeness of dark shadowy cliffs all around us. I’ve heard people talk about an experience changing them. That night did.

A few years later I came back. This time for work as a field technician for the BLM. We were looking for water. The BLM had a window to claim water rights and had hired college students to identify and describe water sources across a district that extended from the Nevada border to the Colorado River. Most of these were seeps, small pockets where groundwater leaked out onto the surface sand and rock. But in Escalante there were streams. Deep canyons with water and – despite the summer heat and desert appearance – trout. The BLM usually claimed a minimum flow suitable only for supporting a cattle stock pond or tank. In the Escalante creeks we were hoping to claim enough water to sustain the trout. We were measuring and documenting pools and riffles, stream width and boulder size. But Ronald Reagan was president and James Watt was Secretary of Interior. There was a lot of concern then, as there is now, on the fate of our federal lands from an administration that seems focused on accelerating resource removal, logging, mining and grazing, over sustainable land management. About two weeks into the project we got the word. No need for field studies, we could only claim enough water for cows. That could be done from the office.

What is amazing to me now – that land, those stream are still there and the Kaiparowits Plateau is still intact. This is due, in no small part to the protection Grand Staircase-Escalante received when it was dedicated by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The coal is still there, laying in seams near the bones of dinosaurs. The State of Utah, the Counties and private citizens want to mine it. To make some short term money. And we will lose what has been protected up until now.

I fear for the fate of Grand Staircase-Escalante – because it has coal. No matter that the we have a glut of coal. That access to coal increased under President Obama – there was never a war on coal as Secretary Zinke and Vice President Pence just declared. But you would never know that listening to the those now in power. There  are large active coal mines north of Interstate 70. Secretary Zinke just opened more federal coal to them that they don’t even need. About a hundred miles or so south from Grand Staircase-Escalante the Kayenta Mine on Black Mesa in Arizona is shutting down after forty or fifty years – not because of environmental regulations or a lack of coal, but because coal cannot compete with the far cheaper energy source – natural gas. If Interior modifies Grand Staircase-Escalante so that the Kaiparowits coal can be mined, we have lost a treasure – for nothing.

Photo: Metate Arch. Seen from the “front” side, this arch is in the Devil’s Garden area about ten miles down Hole in the Rock Road, southeast of Escalante, Utah. 27 September 2011. John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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