I’ve been visiting the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) area for decades. In my opinion, it’s the most awe-inspiring part of the state. President Trump’s attacks on GSENM and Bears Ears National Monument are infuriating, but I’ve been taking comfort in the fact that there’s no legal basis for Trump’s action, because only Congress can reduce or rescind national monuments. Thus, I figured the courts would save the monuments.
Well, enter Rep. Chris Stewart, who is proposing legislation that would make the proposed reduction of GSENM permanent while throwing in the token gesture of a small national park (5 percent of the monument). This legislation would make any pending lawsuits against Trump’s GSENM reduction moot. It should be seen as monument reduction legislation, not national park creation legislation.
One of the most worrying parts of the legislation is that it turns Hole-in-the-Rock Road over to the state. For years I’ve thought that one of the worst things that could happen to GSENM would be for the state to gain control of this road and then pave it over. This road and the spectacular canyons accessed from it represent the heart of the monument. Paving it would permanently alter the monument experience, and not for the better. One of the things that makes GSENM so special is that it’s not as paved over and overrun by tourists as our national parks have become. If the state gains control of Hole-in-the-Rock Road, I’m sure it would be paved, and then further development would follow.
When the idea of a Hole-in-the-Rock state park was floated in the state Legislature this past year, the fate of Hole-in-the-Rock Road was the first thing that came to my mind. Then Trump’s proclamation cut all of Hole-in-the-Rock Road out of the monument, making me even more suspicious. Stewart’s proposed legislation confirms my fears by turning the entire road over to the state.
I hope members of the Congress who care about this unique and irreplaceable landscape see through this sham. A small, overcrowded national park isn’t worth cutting GSENM in half while tearing out its heart and handing it over to the state.
Jeremy Eyre, Salt Lake City