The Bureau of Land Management has released new plans for managing the three units left in the shrunken Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and for the 900,000 acres President Donald Trump stripped from the original monument.
Here’s a summary of what the plans do:
Trump’s order lifted a ban on mineral leasing on the excluded lands. What do the plans mean for drilling and mining?
Extractive industries will not be allowed in the 1 million acres remaining in the monument. The new plan bars mineral development on 210,000 acres removed from the monument but opens nearly 700,000 acres to mining for coal, tar sands and other minerals and drilling for oil and gas. Development will be subject to stipulations that protect nonmineral resources. The BLM’s plan 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 bars development on 225 acres at the end of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, including sites important to Mormon pioneer history.
What does it mean for grazing?
Livestock grazing would remain on much of the former and current Grand Staircase, although the plan boosts the available acreage and the grazing intensity. It also promises that the monument will have no bearing on how grazing is administered. Activists are upset that the plan could allow livestock to return to the stretch of the Escalante River corridor that remains in the monument.
Will the Staircase and surrounding lands be open to motorized use?
Motorized routes will be addressed in subsequent travel plans, but the new plan adds two new routes at the request of counties, including the V and Inchworm Arch roads, and establishes 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. The plan closes 1,464 acres around No Mans Mesa to motorized recreation.
How will recreation be affected?
Visitors can expect to see more signs along trails and developed sites, like picnic areas, campgrounds and pullouts. The plan expands recreational access generally and emphasizes recreation along the Burr Trail, Calf Creek and the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. The latter accesses numerous slot canyons and historic sites used by the San Juan Expedition on its epic pioneer journey. It establish special recreation zones at Dance Hall Rock, 20-Mile Dinosaur Tracks, Devils Garden and Dry Fork Wash along the historic road. Size limits on groups will be upped from the current cap at 12, depending on the location. Other recreation zones will be established at Calf Creek, Egypt Slot Canyons, Vermilion Cliffs and Paria Canyon. Competitive sports events will be allowed on the monument for the first time.