The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service have released draft resource management plans (RMP) and environmental impact statements (EIS) for two national monuments in Utah that the Trump administration trimmed by more than two million acres last year.
The proposals are expected to pinpoint preferred alternatives in an effort to "emphasize future resource uses” while complying with existing environmental laws and regulations, according to the draft plans.
Last December, President Trump signed a proclamation reducing the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 46%, to 1 million acres, and separating it into three units -- Grand Staircase (209,993 acres), Kaiparowits (551,034) and Escalante Canyons (242,836). The Bears Ears National Monument was reduced by 83%, to 228,784 acres, dividing it into the Indian Creek (71,896) and Shash Jáa (129,980) units.
The proposals evaluate four alternatives that vary from no action to maximizing management flexibility while still providing required resource protection. Officials stressed that they encourage comments on all alternatives and potential management actions, since the final plans may include portions of any alternative.
BLM began the planning process in January with a three-month-long scoping period and two public meetings. Since then, it has worked with cooperating agencies to develop the drafts, "reflecting input from many stakeholders and the public.”
Noting that it has been 20 years since public input was gathered on Grand Staircase, BLM Utah Director Ed Roberson said developing updated management plans "is an exciting challenge and a serious responsibility that is shared by everyone who cares about these lands."
For Grand Staircase-Escalante, a 98-page mineral potential report for the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area indicated that the prospects for oil, gas or coal development are low given the remoteness of the location from energy infrastructure and market conditions. The report refers to it as "high risk" exploration.
The proposals were published in the Federal Register on Friday (Aug. 17), officially kicking off a comment period through Nov. 15.