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SOURCE: Salt Lake Tribune

DATE: August 15, 2018

SNIP: Most of the lands removed from southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument would be available to coal mining and oil or gas drilling under federal draft plans released Wednesday, putting nearly 700,000 acres in play that otherwise would have been off-limits to mineral extraction.

The Bureau of Land Management’s “preferred” vision for these vast stretches in Kane and Garfield counties imposes the fewest restrictions of the four alternatives studied under an environmental analysis, prompting renewed charges from green groups that President Donald Trump’s controversial order reducing the monument by half was designed to sacrifice irreplaceable natural values in the name of his quest for U.S. “energy dominance.”

“The lands Trump tried to cut out of the Staircase have an ‘open for business’ sign on them. Off-road vehicles, coal mining, drilling and other activities that without a doubt would destroy monument objects would be allowed,” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Even in areas that remain in the monument, the plan would drive down protections to the lowest common denominator that would result in damage to culture sites, paleontological resources, and riparian areas and wilderness.”

The agency posted thousands of pages of analysis for the plans that outline new management programs for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, as well as a 98-page minerals report for Staircase that details the rich deposits of coal, oil and gas, tar sands and other minerals under the former monument’s 1.9 million-acre footprint.