GAO to probe Interior moves on lands cut from Grand Staircase-Escalante monument

(Douglas C. Pizac | AP file photo) In this undated photo, the Upper Gulch section of the Escalante Canyons within Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument features sheer sandstone walls, broken occasionally by tributary canyons.

A government watchdog will investigate whether the U.S. Interior Department broke the law by making plans to open up lands cut from a Utah national monument by President Trump to leasing for oil, gas and coal development.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico said Monday in a news release that the Government Accountability Office informed his office last week that it has agreed to his request that it look into whether the Interior violated the appropriations law by using funds to assess potential resource extraction in the lands cut from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

GAO spokesman Charles Young confirmed the inquiry. The Interior Department didn't immediately return an email seeking comment.

Udall is the ranking member of Senate's subcommittee for the Interior Department.

President Bill Clinton created the monument in 1996. Trump downsized it by nearly half in 2017.