Managing the monument: The devil is in the details

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to a feature story.

If it survives expected legal challenges, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will in all likelihood stop the industrialization of the Kaiparowits Plateau. While the proclamation creating the monument did not take away Andalex's right to mine its rich coal fields, federal land managers acknowledge that the company will probably not be able to obtain rights-of-way for roads and utilities to the remote site.

Environmentalists say Andalex would be wise to follow the lead of PacifiCorp, the only other company holding leases in the area. Just days before the president created the monument, PacifiCorp officials announced the company had struck a deal with the Interior Department to trade out its leases for other federal property.

Although the mine question may be settled soon, how the land should be managed is not. Clinton's team left plenty of space for that debate when it drew up plans for the monument designation.

The new monument will be the first in the country to be managed not by the National Park Service but by the current landlord, the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM will continue to oversee it, with grazing, hunting and other traditional uses of the land remaining unchanged. That should smooth things out some with locals, says Don Banks with the Utah state office of the BLM in Salt Lake City.

"I'd be lying to say that this isn't going to be a tremendous challenge," says Banks. "But we have our people in place, and we have pretty good relations with the local governments and private communities."

How the BLM balances protection of the area's vast natural and cultural resources with traditional users and growing numbers of backpackers, mountain bikers and off-road vehicle enthusiasts, will be decided in a three-year public process concluding with a management plan. Clinton emphasized that local and state involvement will be essential to the process.

Environmentalists said they hope the eventual plan will downplay the need for new roads and facilities for tourists, leaving it much as it is today, a remote, difficult-to-reach desert wilderness. In fact, they still hope to win wilderness designation for much of the monument. That angers Kane County attorney Colin Winchester. "If the replacement for the mine is tourism, then why do they want to take away that, too?"

The BLM's Banks says monument status will force the agency to beef up its presence in the area, and assess how to improve its limited visitor facilities to accommodate more people.

The proclamation explicitly says there will be no federal reserved water right attached to the monument; and it calls for all school-trust lands contained within the boundaries to be swapped for federal holdings of comparable value elsewhere.

Utah Rep. Bill Orton, the state's only Democratic member of Congress, said that with so many concessions the president is left with a "hollow monument."

But for environmentalists, stopping coal development was the big prize. Said Ken Rait of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, "Ask Andalex how hollow this monument is."

High Country News Classifieds
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • ARIZONA PROGRAM MANAGER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks an Arizona Program Manager. The Arizona Program Manager works...
  • CROWN OF THE CONTINENT COMMUNITY CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY is seeking a Community Conservation Specialist, for the Crown of the Continent DEPARTMENT: Conservation CLASSIFICATION: Grade 6 Specialist/Representative (Low of $54K) REPORTS...
  • ASSISTANT FARM DIRECTOR
    About The Organization Building community through fresh vegetables is at the heart of the Sisters-based non-profit, Seed to Table Oregon. Based on a four-acre diversified...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org