Groundswell for a monument?

 

UTAH

After President Clinton used the Antiquities Act to establish Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996, Gov. Mike Leavitt railed against the move as an abuse of executive power. But during his State of the State address this Jan. 28, Leavitt asked President Bush for something that made environmentalists' jaws hit the floor: a 620,000-acre national monument on the San Rafael Swell.

While Grand Staircase was locally decried as having been railroaded through from D.C., the San Rafael monument is being touted as a county-level initiative intended to stave off the impacts of heavy use on the BLM-managed land (HCN, 5/22/00: Stirrings in the San Rafael Swell). "It's being loved to death with no real direction or management," says Wes Curtis, Utah's state planning coordinator. "It's time to really give this land what it deserves."

Details about the proposal are scanty at this point - Leavitt's office has yet to send a formal request to President Bush - but environmental and off-road users are both keeping a wary eye on a plan that they say was hatched without their input.

"We can get behind (the monument) if it's the real deal," says Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance's Heidi McIntosh, but she points out that Leavitt is continuing his push to establish county ownership of roads on federal land, a move that would disqualify large areas from federal protection as wilderness (HCN, 1/21/02: Wheeling and dealing). "Until we resolve (that) issue," says McIntosh, "we cannot feel secure about the preservation of this monument."

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