What the new plans mean for mining, grazing, recreation and artifacts in Grand Staircase and Bears Ears

What would the Staircase plans do for mining?

Mining and drilling would not be allowed in the 1 million acres remaining in Grand Staircase, along with 210,000 acres removed from the monument. That would leave nearly 700,000 acres stripped from the monument open to mining for coal, tar sands and other minerals and drilling for oil and gas — with some stipulations to protect nonmineral resources. The Bureau of Land Management’s preferred alternative indicates “moderate constraints” on about 551,000 acres and “major constraints” on 108,000 acres. More than 66,000 acres were deemed suitable for coal mining. The plan would bar mineral extraction on 225 acres at the end of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, including sites important to Mormon pioneer history.

What would it mean for grazing?

Livestock grazing would remain on much of the former and current Grand Staircase, although the plan would increase acreage available and the intensity of grazing. It also promises that the monument would have no bearing on how grazing is administered.

Would Grand Staircase be open for motorized use?

The drafts largely ignore motorized routes, which will be addressed in subsequent travel plans. However, the preferred plans would add three new routes, including the V, Inchworm Arch and Flagpoint roads and establish a 2,528-acre motorized play area called Little Desert just west of Escalante, where travel would be allowed off designated routes. Everywhere else motorized users would have to stick to those routes.

How would recreation be affected?

The preferred alternative would expand recreational access and emphasizes recreation along the Burr Trail, Calf Creek and the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. The latter accesses numerous slot canyons and the historic site used by the San Juan Expedition on its epic pioneer journey. Size limits on groups would be lifted, although they would be capped at 25 in wilderness study areas.

Would the Bears Ears plan open that region to mining?

Lands inside the reduced monument would remain off-limits to new mining leases and claims. The draft plan does not address the 1.1 million acres President Donald Trump removed from the Bear Ears monument, lands that include the archaeologically rich Cedar Mesa. Those lands would continue to be managed under the BLM Monticello field office’s 2008 plan, which allows for mineral development in many areas.

What does the BLM’s preferred alternative envision for Bears Ears?

This draft calls for “the continuation of multiple uses” within the reduced monument’s two units, while accommodating recreation and protecting objects of historic interest and natural values. As with the Staircase plans, however, no lands outside wilderness study areas would be managed for wilderness characteristics, which tends to exclude activities that disturb the ground. Grazing would be managed as it has for years.

What about the monument’s artifacts, archaeological sites and other cultural resources?

All the alternatives would implement measures to reduce or eliminate impacts to objects left by ancient American Indians and considered sacred to modern tribes, which would be included in future decision-making. All the the plans would restrict recreation and group sizes throughout the monument, but the preferred alternative would be the least restrictive.