Score one for Grand Staircase-Escalante
Thirteen years ago, when outgoing President Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante a national monument, the outcry from some southeast Utah residents was deafening (and HCN was there to write about it). Angry ranchers called their representatives and demanded repeal, locals burned Clinton in effigy, billboards saying NO MONUMENT! went up along the highways. Garfield and Kane counties immediately set to work to undercut the designation, blading illegal roads, pulling out the BLM's "closed to motorized use" signs, and more. And, of course, they filed a lawsuit, complaining about unfair federal interference with access to water and roads.
Now, a federal court has (again) rejected their claims. The Deseret News reports:
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver shot down contentions by Kane and Garfield counties that the Bureau of Land Management's land-use plan for 1.9 million acres unfairly infringes on that access, saying such assertions were overly vague and failed to prove actual harm. The same ruling torpedoed claims by the Kane County Water Conservancy District that water rights were stripped away.
Rep. Mike Noel, unsurprisingly, blasted the court's decision as representing "faceless, nameless, unaccountable bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., who thinks they can hold sway over a sovereign state."
Noel's outrage reflects the Sagebrush Rebellion mindset that's slowly dying out as Westerners realize that natural resources aren't infinite, that complete lack of regulation leads most often to chaos. Their viewpoint was described astutely two decades ago by writer Wallace Stegner: “Westerners who would like to return to the old days of free grab, people of the kind described as having made America great by their initiative and energy in committing mass trespass on the minerals, grass, timber and water of the Public Domain, complain that no Western state is master in its own house.”