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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."

Most Recent Action

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. (4/29/04)

Background

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  (Greenwire, 01/05/99).

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.


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