Press Release Nov 19, 2018

Parks Group Files Brief in Support of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Through our amicus brief, we urge the courts to hold the government accountable for putting our public lands, including our national parks, in harm’s way.

Washington, DC – National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) took legal action today on behalf of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by seeking leave to file an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The brief supports a challenge to the Trump administration’s illegal action to reduce the size of the Utah monument by nearly half and emphasizes how shrinking Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s boundaries would drastically impact the previously adjacent national park sites and the ecological connectedness of this landscape.

For more than twenty years, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has served as a critical connection between three extremely popular crown jewels of the National Park System – Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – contributing to the preservation of the region’s clean air, clear night skies, unspoiled vistas and natural soundscapes. But now, the Trump administration’s illegal action to remove large tracts of land from Grand Staircase-Escalante would eliminate the monument’s shared borders with Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, and nearly all of Glen Canyon. This illegal action also allows for destructive uses and development on the lands inside the monument’s reduced boundaries, along with lands removed from the monument.

Protection for our national parks is tenuous when their adjacent lands are open to many harmful uses. Mining, drilling and other incompatible development outside park borders can threaten wildlife and air and water quality and impact the views and the experience of park visitors. The administration’s proposed management plan for Grand Staircase-Escalante removes long standing protections from these threats and jeopardizes both the monument and the adjacent parks’ natural and cultural resources, along with the multi-million dollar economy they support.

Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association

“NPCA has stood with local communities and the millions of Americans who have spoken out in support of protecting Grand Staircase-Escalante. And today, we officially engage in the lawsuit as a friend of the court. It has been clear throughout our efforts to protect the monument that people care deeply about this place – from recreational opportunities to human history dating back centuries. The Trump administration’s quest for energy dominance has carelessly placed the extraordinary Grand Staircase-Escalante landscape and its trove of scientific and paleontological resources at risk from destructive development. We will continue to fight to protect this treasured place, and through our amicus brief, we urge the courts to hold the government accountable for putting our public lands, including our national parks, in harm’s way.

“Grand Staircase-Escalante is the centerpiece of the region’s interconnected national park system. From colorful cliffs to steep canyons and delicate arches, this vast landscape holds thousands of years of our history that includes archeological sites, unique geological features and diverse species of sensitive desert plants and animals. Unfortunately, this administration is willing to sacrifice this landscape, and subsequently the surrounding national parks’ natural and cultural resources, in its pursuit of short-term profits.

“Millions of people visit this special place and surrounding park sites each year, spending nearly $655 million annually. They go to view dinosaur fossils and to experience incredible solitude, not to see oil rigs and to hear bulldozers roaring through the remote landscape. But this could be the case if President Trump is permitted to move forward with flawed management plans being proposed for an illegal monument boundary. Grand Staircase-Escalante and surrounding national park sites may be forever changed, losing so much that we stand to learn from and experience here.”

BACKGROUND: In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed two proclamations attempting to remove federal protections from roughly 2 million acres of land in Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This act, which NPCA maintains is illegal, represents the largest reduction to a national monument in U.S. history.

In August 2018, the Trump administration released proposed management plans that would prioritize harmful activities such as drilling, mining and off-road vehicle use in the contested areas that had previously received full monument protections. These proposed management plans are an affront to the public, who spoke out overwhelmingly in favor of keeping full protections in place at these national monuments — and all our national monuments. November 30 is the deadline for comment on the administration’s proposed management plan for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

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About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.