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Last-Minute Push for Feds to Leave UT Nat'l Monuments Alone

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments could be eliminated or reduced in size under a federal review that ends next week. (Josh Ewing)
Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments could be eliminated or reduced in size under a federal review that ends next week. (Josh Ewing)
August 17, 2017

BOULDER, Utah – Many Utah business owners and tribes are making a last-minute push to save the state's national monuments, under threat from a federal review that ends one week from today.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has until Aug. 24 to make recommendations on whether to shrink or rescind Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument - which has been in place for decades.

Some state legislators oppose the monument, saying it has cost the area jobs. But Blake Spaulding, who employs 50 people at the restaurant she co-owns in the area, said the monument actually has created a boom.

"Every construction crew, every school, every restaurant is looking for employees,” Spaulding said. "So, the idea that the monument needs to be damaged in order to create jobs is unequivocally a false narrative. Without the monument, our business wouldn't exist."

Zinke already has called for dramatically reducing the size of Bears Ears National Monument, but said the final recommendation will come next week. Almost 3 million Americans have made public comments on the monument review, overwhelmingly in favor of keeping them intact.

Davis Filfred, a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, said the tribes don't want to see the state allow oil and gas drilling in Bears Ears, a place they consider sacred. He said extractive industries have ravaged the environment elsewhere in the state.

"All the petroleum, they just got what they wanted. Our soil, our water base, our air is contaminated, and EPA is not doing anything about it,” Filfred said. "We have roads everywhere. And I don't want that in my Bears Ears region."

Multiple tribes and conservation groups are threatening to sue if President Trump tries to rescind or shrink any of the national monuments currently under review. The Antiquities Act doesn't give the President explicit permission to rescind monument designations, only to create them.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - UT