Yesterday BlueRibbon Coalition filed its notice of appeal in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in its challenge to President Biden’s expansions of the Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. We were disappointed that the District Court in Utah dismissed our case, but we always understood that challenge of this nature might require judicial review up to the level of the Supreme Court.
We were reminded last week why the challenge to abuse of the Antiquities Act is so important as we reviewed the latest draft of the proposed Monument Management Plan that was released for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. If you’re someone who enjoys accessing public land for recreation or any other reason, there is nothing good in this plan.
Map of Proposed Closures to Motorized Access
As you can see from the map above most of the access to the monument will be from four main roads, and the rest will be closed. We are still reviewing the 1200 page plan to fully understand the technicalities of this, and we will have an action alert for everyone when we have done a full review. However, this is an area the size of the state of Delaware, with 4 roads totaling at most between 200-300 miles. Could the state of Delaware function with 4 roads? A proposal this radical isn’t about environmental protection. This isn’t a reasonable exercise of NEPA or the Administrative Procedures Act. This is a violent weaponization of federal land policy to punish the state of Utah.
The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is nearly 2 million acres in size, and it includes most of the land in Garfield and Kane counties in Utah. The Hole in the Rock Road is one of the four roads that will likely remain open, and it is one of the most popular access routes in the area. The monument managers are preventing Garfield County from maintaining this road. It is getting so bad, that the county has put up a sign advising users of the lack of maintenance.
The same Bureau of Land Management Field Office that is obstructing Garfield County from maintaining its own county road with its own funds within the monument boundaries also has the budget to pay the list below of 60 full-time staff and contractors to develop this garbage plan that will restrict access to motorized travel, overlanding, camping, rock climbing, e-bikes, mountain bikes, wood gathering (which will make extended hiking and backpacking difficult), country road maintenance personnel, firefighters, search and rescue volunteers, and organized group activities.
While we are committed to challenging the abuse of the Antiquities Act in Court, if while the challenge is pending the Bureau of Land Management is going to field an army of bureaucrats to devise the plans to completely lock us out of our public land, then Congress must intervene and use the power of the purse to defund this attack on our western communities.
Recently, the House Appropriations Committee included Section 471 in the FY 2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Bill. Section 471 would withhold funding from the BLM for anything that would implement the Biden expansions of the Grand Staircase and Bears Ears National Monuments. The full House will likely be voting on this bill sometime in September.
Sign our petition telling Congress to Defund the Monument Planning Process for these monuments. We will also be working to defund any effort to implement the new monument that was announced last week in Arizona. Help us fight back!