BLM votes to open up (and sell off) parts of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments to miners and drillers
Update: Backtracking, the Interior Department sent a memo to Bureau of Land Management officials on Friday, cancelling the controversial plan to sell off 1,600 acres of federal land previously inside Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument. Top Interior officials, including Secretary Ryan Zinke, say they were blindsided by the BLM's proposal.
The Bureau of Land Management has released draft management plans for Utah's Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments—and they don't hold good news for these sacred sites. At Bears Ears, the agency is opting for the most flexible and least protective management framework possible, allowing for a whole new suite of industrial activities including mining and drilling. Grand Staircase-Escalante fared worse: More than 1,600 acres of the federal land that President Trump cut from the monument late last year are proposed to be sold to private interests. That’s odd, since Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke previously boasted that "not one square inch" of public lands have been sold, nor would be sold, including federal lands previously protected in the two Utah monuments. the land removed from the monument would leave federal hands. In all, 700,000 acres of the monument could be opened to extractive industries, particularly tragic considering the two decades of restoration investment meant to restore these lands to their former glory. The fight to keep these natural spaces intact is far from over, though: Multiple legal challenges to the monuments’ reductions are still making their way through the courts.