Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (4-27-04)
The Clinton Administration's creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument in 1996 sparked a great deal of controversy over
the president's ability to create a national monument without congressional
approval or public input. President Clinton created the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah over two years ago,
setting aside the land as "exemplary opportunities for geologists,
paleontologists, archeologists, historians, and biologists."
On April 19th a federal judge upheld President Clinton's 1996 designation
of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument under the Antiquities
Act. The judge denied the request by the Utah Association of Counties
and Mountain States Legal Foundation to declare the designation unlawful.
Opponents of the designation say that President Clinton overstepped
his bounds in designating the monument. They plan to appeal the ruling.
Several bills were introduced in the 105th Congress addressing the
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, but only one bill made
it into law. A BLM decision to allow drilling in the monument also
sparked controversy. Related activities in Congress included hearings
on the Antiquities Act, which followed President Clinton's September
18, 1996 use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare 1.7 million
acres in south central Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument.
A summary of the hearing and other bills introduced to limit federal
intervention in public lands designation is available on the AGI website.
Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Utah) introduced the Utah Schools and Lands Exchange
Act of 1998, H.R. 3830, which concerns school trust lands in the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument. A companion bill, S. 2146,
was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and was the subject
of a June 25th Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Land Management
hearing. In HR 3830, the federal government would acquire the land
and subsurface rights to state-owned sections included in the national
monument. The state in return would get other federal land, mineral
rights, and $50 million. The monument includes 176,000 acres of school
trust lands and 24,000 acres of mineral rights. Elsewhere in Utah,
national parks, forests, and Indian reservations contain 200,000 acres
of school land and 76,000 acres of mineral rights. The bill, an agreement
between Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Utah Governor Mike Leavitt
(R), passed the House by a voice vote on June 24, 1997, passed the
Senate on October 9, 1998, and was signed into law (PL 105-335) on
October 31, 1998.
After several years of negotiation, the federal government has agreed
to pay Portland-based Pacificorp $5.5 million for coal leases located
in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Greenwire, 10/18/99).
This deal follows an early October settlement in which Andelex Resources
agreed to turn over Federal coal leases located within the Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument to the Federal Government in exchange for $14 million.
Andelex had designated 34,499 acres of land as the site of a coal
mine before the land became protected in 1996. The Department
of the Interior has yet to reach a compromise with Conoco, which has
106,518 acres of leases within the monument (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/02/99).
Earlier this year, several similar agreements involving grazing rights
were made between southern Utah ranching families and the BLM
In 1999, by a vote of 12-8, H.R. 1487, a bill
that was created as a direct consequence of President Clinton's creation
of the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, slid past the
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, October
20th. Opposition came from the conservative end, with some senators
hoping to pass Sen. Larry Craig's (R-ID) bill, S.
729 instead. S. 729 would require Congress' approval of
national monument designations. Craig's bill also instructs the land
management agencies to gather information on the surface and subsurface
resources present at the proposed site, identify land ownership in
the area, and conduct hearings on the potential designation and prepare
environmental studies in accordance with NEPA. (Greenwire, 10/20/99).
Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, E&E News, Greenwire,
Thomas website, and hearing testimony.
Contributed by Charna Meth, 2003 Spring Semester Intern; Deric R.
Learman, AGI/AIPG 2003 Summer Intern; Gayle Levy 2004 Spring Semester
Intern; and Emily M. Lehr, AGI Government Affairs Program Staff
Background section includes material from AGI's Update
on the Clearn Air Act for the 107th Congress.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on April 27, 2004.