NEW DOCUMENTS: Interior Officials Ignored Utah Bureau of Land Management Officials in Slashing Grand Staircase

Monument Reduced by One Million Acres Despite On the Ground Expertise

Western Values Project released a new analysis and public documents from the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showing the Trump administration ignored valuable input and recommendations by career officials when it illegally reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by one million acres.

“These newly released public documents show that Interior had a predetermined agenda for the one million acres of protected public land slashed from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Trump Administration steamrolled expertise on the ground in Utah in order to push a narrow political agenda from Washington, D.C.,” said Chris Saeger, Western Values Project Executive Director.

The documents contradict arguments made by the administration that the monument designation was detrimental to the area and communities, noting that a ‘wealth of scientific information’ has been gathered since it’s designation and that the monument contributed ‘$51 million to in value-added and 1,024 jobs to the local economy in 2016’ alone.

The review was conducted by former Interior Secretary Zinke who also suggested that cattle grazing had been impacted. Utah BLM reported that it had largely been unchanged over a 20-year period.

“It’s clear that the largest reduction in public land protections in U.S. history was always about appeasing a handful of politicians and special interests. It was based on faulty legal theories and pie-in-the-sky hopes for industrial resource extraction in low potential areas, not the intrinsic economic value these areas have brought to local communities over decades,” said Saeger.

An analysis by Western Values Project found that the redrawn boundary carved out the Kaiparowits Plateau, which includes one of Utah’s biggest coalfields. Many of the monument’s nearly 50 oil and gas leases were also excluded and the reduction opened land adjacent to Capital Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks to drilling. The documents show that Utah BLM said accurate numbers about energy potential in the monument are “highly speculative.”

The House Natural Resource is holding a hearing today on the “Forgotten Voices: The Inadequate Review and Improper Alteration of Our National Monuments” to further examine the Trump administration’s historic reduction of protected public lands.

The full analysis of the documents is available here and the Utah Bureau of Land Management Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument FOIA Documents are available here.

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