National monument back under attack

  In southern Utah, local officials are escalating their fight against the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. On Aug. 25, Kane and Garfield County commissioners and two state legislators sent a letter listing their grievances with the monument to Utah State Bureau of Land Management Director Sally Wisely and national BLM Director Kathleen Clarke, among others.

The letter requests that the BLM demote manager Dave Hunsaker and reduce monument funding and staff. “The only way we’ve found that we can get anyone to listen is to go above their heads,” says State Sen. Tom Hatch, who signed the letter. In 2001, the Department of the Interior relocated then-monument manager Kate Cannon, following a meeting between local county-rights activists and then-Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Tom Fulton (HCN, 4/14/03: Change comes slowly to Escalante country).

Local officials wrote in the letter that the monument’s “preservation management philosophy” threatens “the sustainability of the local economy and culture.” “If the monument has complete control,” says Garfield County Commissioner Clare Ramsey, “it will be managed as a national park, instead of … as multiple use and grazing land.”

Bill Hedden of the conservation group Grand Canyon Trust says the letter is part of an ongoing effort by local officials, few of whom are ranchers, to resist any federal control: “Nothing will suit them until the government gets out of Dodge and just sends them checks in the mail.”