Most Recent Action   Current Congress   Background   Hearing Summaries 

Update on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (10-30-99)

Most Recent Action
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).

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).

Current Congress
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.  In the current Congress, H.R. 1487, "A bill to provide for public participation in the declaration of national monuments under the Act popularly known as the Antiquities Act of 1906," was a direct consequence of this controversy.  A summary of hearings regarding this bill can be found on the AGI web site.  H.R. 1487 passed the House on September 24th and was referred to the Senate on September 27th.

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." The monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which was charged by the original presidential proclamation to develop a management plan within three years.  Earlier this year, BLM accepted comments on a draft plan that includes five alternatives, which place varying degrees of emphasis on scientific research in the monument.. Given the monument's creation for scientific purposes, a number of geoscientists have raised concerns over restrictions on access for research and education. The draft plan, which was released in July, is available on the web at

A compilation of legislative activity concerning this topic can be found on the AGI web site.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by AGI/AAPG Geoscience Policy Intern Alison Alcott

Posted October 5, 1999;  Last updated, October 30, 1999

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