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A National Park In Name Only?


A Utah congressman wants to create a national park out of lands from the existing Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument/Metate Arch in the monument, John Fowler photo via Wikipedia. (

Imagine a national park where you can hunt and trap the wildlife, where livestock grazing is not just permitted but also "enhanced," and a presidentially appointed management council tells the National Park Service how to run the park.

That is the vision some Utah politicians, who succeeded last week in getting President Trump to announce sweeping changes to the landscapes of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, have for running national parks.

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, who represents the second congressional district in Utah that includes most of the western half of the state as well as the counties in which Grand Staircase-Escalante touches, has introduced legislation that would create a national park out of some of the lands President Trump wants to lop off of the existing 1.9-million-acre national monument created by President Clinton in 1996.

“With their deep narrow canyons, high plateaus, sheer cliffs, incredible vistas, and vibrant colors, the Escalante Canyons are a crown jewel in the state,” Rep. Stewart said in announcing his legislation. “Escalante Canyons National Park is a win-win for those wanting conservation and access. It’s a win-win for those who want to share the beauty of this state but also to preserve the local culture that is so important to our communities. Additionally, this bill gives locals a stronger voice in how their backyard is managed.”

The legislation, which the House Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing for on Thursday, also would provide the legislative vehicle to create the additional, smaller, national monuments the president called for during an appearance in Salt Lake City last week.

Along with allowing hunting, trapping, and grazing within the proposed Escalante Canyons National Park, Mr. Stewart's bill calls for a management council comprised of one Interior Department representative and five individuals appointed by the president in consultation with Utah's congressional delegation and governor. This council, according to the legislation, "shall develop and implement comprehensive management plans" for the park and the Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons national monuments President Trump called for.

"The Management Council shall allow hunting, fishing and trapping on lands and water under the jurisdiction of the (Interior) Secretary within the Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve in accordance with the applicable laws of the State of Utah. The Management Council shall ensure that the privilege of grazing domestic livestock on lands with the Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve shall continue to be exercised and enhanced in perpetuity," the bill states.

Additionally, the legislation would give the state of Utah control over wildlife management in the park and monuments, including how to deal with predators.

While there are "national preserves" in the National Park System, such Big Thicket National Preserve or preserves attached to parks, such as Denali National Park and Preserve, that allow hunting, Mr. Stewart's legislation appears to permit hunting throughout his proposed national park. Grazing is not typically allowed across the park system, although it is allowed in a handful of units.

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Hmpf.  Why not just put a big sign up there prohibiting regular tourists and backpackers (and I believe there are more of them than of hunters and fishermen in any national park at any given time) from this so-called "national park", because who the hell wants to hike out in an area populated by hunters during any given time of the year, in anyplace within this "national park",  wielding guns and who may get so excited at seeing movement that they can't tell the difference between a human and whatever other animal it is they want to kill.  Grazing all over this "national park" would pretty much ruin any native plant species, not to mention probably shove out any native wildlife (sound familiar on a more evolved level?).  Not real sure any rancher would appreciate backpackers and hikers tramping around their livestock, either.  And it would certainly make it easier, wouldn't it, for any cultural artifacts from the ancient human inhabitants to be stolen or shot up for a little outdoor target practice.  Because really, do you think these Utah legislators (or the POTUS, for that matter - a guy who has probably never visited a national park or national monument in his entire life), give a hoot about the spiritual and cultural impact of these places, not to mention the scenic impact?  I just don't think so. Doesn't sound like this "national park" would be so much for ALL the people as it would be for ALL the rancher, hunters and trappers.  And you can probably kiss any thought of viewable, photographable wildlife good-bye, after being hunted / overhunted by any means possible.  You may have responsible hunters, but I'm pretty sure the irresponsible ones will think someplace like this is a dream come true.  I sure wouldn't want to step in a hidden trap set by somebody legally or illegally.  Oh wait a minute - that's the end game for these Utah legislators and POTUS, isn't it?  Screw preserving these natural environments and cultural artifacts.  Screw the regular hiker, backpacker and day / weekend tourist. And definitely screw preserving these amazing natural environments for future generations. 

Good comments, Rebecca.

And let's not forget that one of the reasons behind the original creation of the Bureau of Land Management was the incredible damage being done to western public lands -- particularly in Utah -- by ranchers who nearly completely destroyed vast landscapes by overgrazing; by mining companies; and by others whose "land management" practices were turning this part of America into a vast wasteland. 

The claim made that "locals will take better care of the land than the Feds" is simply a nonsensical myth. 

Take a look at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in neighboring New Mexico.  That 100,000 acre property was acquired by the federal government in 2000 and given to the USFS and managed by a local board of trustees for fifteen years.  They allowed regulated seasonal hunting, year round fishing, and seasonal cattle grazing during the term of the trustee management.  There were no accidents with hunting, the property was not overgrazed nor overfished, there were no issues with hikers and cattle, and in 2015 the property was turned over to NPS to be managed as a National Preserve.  To date all these issues are still not a problem.  There's no reason why Utah could not do the same thing.

5 National Parks, National Monuments & some great State Parks in Utah and you don't have places to hike, bike and camp in Utah?  Give me a break.  The money for ANYTHING new will come from the existing budget.  

Sacrifice Native American burial grounds for resource extraction? Give ME a break.

Grazing "enhancement" means hooking a long heavy chain between two bulldozers and uprooting acres of Pinyon-Juniper woodland.  Here's a report on this SW version of clearcutting:

    We examined the long-term effects of chaining in P–J woodlands in southern Utah.
    Past treatments had long-term effects (both intended and unintended) on the ecosystem.
    Treatments increased perennial grass, shrub, and non-native species cover.
    Treatments decreased biocrust cover and increased bare mineral soil cover.
    Treatments increased juniper dominance and increased surface fuel loads. "

Sounds like the only part of "National Park" Rep. Stewart really cares about is the arrowhead sign on the highway to generate more dollars from tourists unaware his so-called national park is actually a national industrial park for fracking and open-pit mining.

Here's an account of just one more of the negative aspects of drumpf's demolition of Grand Staircase National Monument.  Not many people are aware that along with coal, the monument also is the site of some of the finest dinosaur fossils ever found on earth.

And even Utah's more conservative newspaper, Deseret News, is concerned about drumpfian attacks on our environment:

Just wanted to point out that this is an AP wire story, so it's not a direct article by the Deseret News.  Matthew Daly's bio says he's a Congressional reporter, along with reporting on the Interior and Energy deparments.

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