BLM issues final plan for reduced Utah monument

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The Trump administration has finalized a proposal for management of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that allows more cattle grazing around the monument and allows some area around the monument to be mined for coal or natural gas.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the Bureau of Land Management has issued its final proposal for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monumen, which cuts 1,345 square miles from the monument’s legal designation.

BLM’s plan also does not recognize any areas of critical environmental concern and allows for visitors to take non-dinosaur fossils from some areas outside of the actual monument itself. An initial plan reconsidered by BLM would have allowed for such collection inside the monument and would have allowed for ATV traffic in the area as well.

Environmentalists slammed the Trump administration for reducing the size of the monument and downgrade protections on the surrounding areas.

“Grand Staircase-Escalante is one of the nation’s public land crown jewels and from the outset the Trump administration was hell-bent on destroying this place,” said Steve Bloch of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, according to the AP.

The monument was created in 1996 under President Clinton, and the decision to shrink its land designation comes after a similar decision to shrink the Bears Ears monument designated by President Obama by about 85 percent.

Grand Staircase’s acting manager Harry Barber told the AP that those seeking to take advantage of the monument would still have to abide by federal regulations.

“It’s not a free-for-all,” Barber told the news service. “That seems to be what I hear a lot, people feeling like now anybody can go out and do anything they want to do on these lands. But, they need to realize that we still have our rules and policies.”

An executive order passed by the president in 2017 directed then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review dozens of national monuments for possible reduction in size or other changes in operation. The order spurred a national debate over the monuments, with critics arguing that the Trump administration was weakening environmental protections in important areas.

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