Sunday, September 05, 2010

Four Corners Furtherance: The controversial Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

In the fall of 1996 President Bill Clinton, using powers granted under the Antiquities Act, declared 1.9 million acres of southern Utah the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Clinton was campaigning for reelection and was eying voters in Arizona--heavily Republican Utah offered no hope for him that year. He announced the monument in Arizona and gave Utah's congressional delegation 24 hours notice of his intent. Sen. Orrin Hatch called it "the mother of all land grabs." But Clinton won Arizona's electoral votes that year.

It contains significant coal and other mineral deposits, which will now remain under the Staircase.

The name: There are different layers of rock, which look like, well a staircase.

All of the photographs were taken on or near Utah State Route 12, an American Scenic Byway. So scenic that I was wondering if the other drivers were paying attention to the road in front of them, particularly RV motorists, many of whom, by this part of the trip, I learned were foreigners. "Damn German!" I would yell. Don't worry, they couldn't hear me. Oh, but please come back and spend lots of money here.

Up on top is a "sandstone ocean" viewed from the Head of the Rocks overlook. The gray strip, or auf Deutsch, as sung by Kraftwerk in "Autobahn"--the graues band--is Route 12.

Since we are living in the Age of Transparency, Hatch and 12 other Republican senators want to bring some to the process of declaring national monuments. In July they introduced the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act. If enacted, congressional approval will be needed before national monuments are made permanent.

"Utahns know only too well the consequences of presidential administrations creating monuments without congressional approval or public input," Hatch said last month.

Back in 1996 it was the belief of many that Clinton abused the Antiquities Act--which was designed to protect smaller areas, not a land-mass larger than Delaware.

The National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act was drafted in response to a leaked document that the Interior Department is considering over a dozen sites, including two in Utah, for monument declaration.

Next: Capitol Reef National Park

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