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Former Utah Governor, Chairman Bishop Re-Expose Political Deception Surrounding 1996 Monument Designation

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 14, 2017 -

Today, at the Subcommittee on Federal Lands legislative hearing on H.R. 4558, the “Grand Staircase-Escalante Enhancement Act,” former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt (R-UT) and Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) detailed the process by which the Clinton administration designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996. The historical account, while nothing new for the Utahns impacted, re-exposed the disturbing pattern of political deception surrounding the unilateral designation.

“[The] way Grand Staircase came forward was an abuse of power, process and protocol so egregious that it is offensive to the concept of democracy itself,” then-Governor Leavitt said.

Even as the Clinton administration formulated detailed plans to designate the monument with Democratic leaders and environmental groups, it went out of its way to conceal those plans from Governor Leavitt and local Utah leaders:

“There was a deliberate effort to conceal and keep the monument out of public view, Leavitt stated. “Secrecy was so vital a concern to the endeavor that the administration was denying a decision had been made, even as bleachers were going up for the presidential announcement at the Grand Canyon.”

Leavitt described the Clinton administration’s unfamiliarity with the facts on the ground in Utah’s Garfield County:

“There is a reason that Washington declarations like Grand Staircase and Bears Ears are described in Utah as ‘midnight monuments.’ They are sprung on the state by a federal government removed from the aftermath and disinterested in its socioeconomic realities,” he stated.

If the Clinton administration was “disinterested” in the “socioeconomic realities” of the monument, in what was it interested? Chairman Bishop, referring to internal memos from the Clinton administration advocating the designation for partisan political purposes, provided the answer:

“To help overcome the negative views towards Clinton, the designation of a new national monument would create a compelling reason to enthusiastically support the administration,” the memo promised.

In the memo, Clinton officials reasoned that political blowback would pale in comparison to the political benefits: “opposition would come from those who, in candor, are unlikely to support the administration under any circumstance.”

Bishop pointed to another memo in which Clinton’s Council on Environmental Quality Chair, Kathleen McGinty, candidly admitted that “these lands are not really endangered.”

As late as six days before the ceremony took place, the Clinton officials continued to deny to Governor Leavitt and members of Utah’s congressional delegation that it had any plans to establish the monument in Utah.

Chairman Bishop described the original designation process as “a politically motivated area that was not necessary or in need of protection. In fact, other areas were in greater need, and it was added simply to get enthusiasm for an election that wasn’t going to vote for Clinton regardless.”

“This is one reason the Grand Staircase designation caused shock and outrage,” Governor Leavitt concluded. “It was inconceivable that someone entrusted to the highest office of the United States would be willing to undertake a process that was purely partisan on a matter of such importance.”

Click here to view full witness testimony.  

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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