On September 18, President Clinton waved his pen and created the nation's newest national treasure: the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Using the Antiquities Act of 1906 that authorizes the President to declare-- without congressional approval-- lands, structures or objects of historic or scientific interest as national monuments, Clinton protected 1.7 million acres of remote red-rock canyons and sweeping desert vistas in southcentral Utah.
Situated atop the Colorado Plateau, west of the Colorado River and east of Bryce Canyon National Park, this high©altitude, rugged remote region was the last area in the continental United States to be mapped, and it incorporates such renowned sites as the Grand Canyon. It spans five ecological life zones, from low©lying deserts to coniferous forests, and is home to mountain lions, black bear, bighorn sheep, bald eagles and the endangered peregrine falcon. The monument also contains prime Anasazi archeological sites, including rock art, granaries and cliff dwellings.
But there's also an abundance of a precious natural resource: coal.
While environmentalists cheered the creation of the monument, the entire Utah congressional delegation jeered it. Senator Orrin Hatch called it "the mother of all land grabs," and the tiny town of Kanab in Kane County, near the Kaiparowits Plateau where the Dutch-owned company Andalex was gearing up to open a major coal mine, shut down for an hour in protest. Kane County Commissioner Joe Judd said the monument's designation will mean the loss of what he had hoped would be the creation of 900 jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Pacific Corp., which holds one of the other major mining leases within the monument, has agreed to trade its holdings for cash and mining lands elsewhere in the state. While mining is not illegal within national monuments, no new mining leases will be granted. Valid existing mining leases, such as Andalex's, will be dealt with on an individual basis, but all are subject to standard environmental protection procedures such as environmental assessments or impact statements. The BLM, which will manage the monument, will also compile an overall management plan during the next three years to determine how to best manage and operate the monument, and will be soliciting input and ideas from the public on how to do so.
To explore the vast expanse of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, call the BLM at (801)826©4291 for information and permits.
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