Chair Grijalva, Subcommittee Chairs Write to Bernhardt Urging No Action on Utah Monument Area Management Plans Pending Lawsuit, GAO Findings

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter with all five subcommittee chairs to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today urging no action be taken on proposed Resource Management Plans (RMP) and Final Environmental Impact Statements (FEIS) for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area, pending the outcome of ongoing litigation on President Trump’s illegal shrinking of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 

The letter, available at http://bit.ly/2NVa0e2, cites the ongoing Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of potential Department of the Interior violations of appropriations law during the management planning process, as well as the numerous concerns that affected stakeholders and local communities have highlighted throughout the process. The letter calls the administration’s attempt to push through the RMPs and FEISs in the middle of such legal and administrative uncertainty “a significant waste of taxpayer dollars and agency resources.”

Although the language of the Antiquities Act nowhere grants presidents the power to unilaterally shrink national monuments once established, the administration – by publishing these new RMPs and FEISs – is proceeding as though Trump’s actions at Grand Staircase-Escalante will withstand scrutiny in federal court. To assuage fears about environmental impacts, the administration frequently points to laws other than the Antiquities Act to claim, implausibly, that the same level of protection will be afforded lands cut out of the monument.

As the authors point out in the letter, under two courses of action proposed in the RMPs – officially referred to as Alternative D and Alternative E – no lands would be managed to protect wilderness characteristics, Wilderness Study Areas would be opened to motorized uses, no lands would be managed as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and paleontological and cultural resources would be directly impacted by limiting restrictions on destructive uses within the monument. These impacts are “acknowledged in planning documentation,” the authors note – but the administration is moving forward regardless.

 The authors highlight the damage already occurring on the ground in Utah thanks to the president’s illegal shrinking of the monument and urge the administration to pursue Alternative A in the RMPs, which would restore appropriate management and sufficient environmental protection to impacted sites.

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