LAST CHANCE: Your voice is needed NOW on public lands!

November 13th, 2018|Action of the Week|0 Comments

The Department of the Interior recently released draft plans for management of the reduced Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, as well as the lands around them that were previously held within monument borders. Unlike previous plans, the new plans for these areas include oil and gas leasing, coal mining and off-road vehicle use.

Are any of these activities a concern to you? Chances are that your answer is yes. Surveys show that only 24% of Utahns want to see oil, gas and mining on public lands.

When the monuments were reduced, proponents argued that monument reduction would allow for greater public access, but selling and leasing public land to private enterprise REDUCES public access forever while potentially damaging irreplaceable national treasures. Monument or not, you can weigh in on how this land is used.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Submit a comment to the BLM on their Bears Ears area management plan by email to: blm_ut_monticello_monuments@blm.gov. Or send by mail to: BLM, Canyon Country District Office, 82 East Dogwood, Moab, Utah 84532, Attention: Lance Porter.
  • Submit a comment to the BLM on their Grand Staircase-Escalante management plan through the online ePlanning portal at: https://goo.gl/EHvhbc. Or send by mail to: 669 S Hwy 89A Kanab, UT 84741, Attn: Matt Betenson

NOTE: Please include your name and street address. Your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. You can request your personal identifying information be withheld from public review, but the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so. Comments will be accepted until November 15, 2018.

Talking points on Bears Ears

Any management plan for the Indian Creek and Shash Jaa’ units of Bears Ears National Monument, by the BLM or USFS should prioritize consultation with the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe, who petitioned for the protection of the Bears Ears landscape. The BLM and the USFS must provide the interested Tribes with a meaningful voice in the co-management of this special area.

President Trump’s Proclamation 9681 is currently the subject of ongoing legal challenges. Because the BLM and USFS are only planning for 15% of the original Bears Ears boundaries in the current process, the most protective management possible for the area must be applied. All management decisions considered under the current process must prioritize the protection of the resources the Monument was designated to protect.

Under BLM and USFS’s current plan, cultural resources are left at risk. BLM’s idea to develop cultural resource monitoring and management strategies two years down the road is not sufficient. BLM must proactively consult with interested Tribes to develop solutions to protect these resources before it is too late by committing to develop an interim approach that can be implemented as soon as the management plan is completed. The agencies must also work with the Tribes to develop a broader plan and ensure the process is meaningful and inclusive of Tribal interests, not just condensed into an arbitrary one-year timeline. The BLM should stop prioritizing speed and begin prioritizing Tribal involvement and protection of land and the unique resources within.

In completing a final plan, BLM should ensure it focuses on the following:

* BLM should manage for the protection of the entire Bears Ears landscape for cultural and paleontological resources–including ongoing inventory and management.

* The agency, in co-management with the interested Tribes, should maintain the option to close or reroute social trails when cultural resources are threatened, instead of relying primarily on educational principles for the public.

* BLM should manage identified lands with wilderness characteristics for wilderness values, as this provides protection for cultural resources, paleontological resources, and other irreplaceable Monument objects.

* BLM and USFS should consider one alternative that extends management for the entirety of the Bears Ears area according to the original monument boundaries. 85% of the original Bears Ears boundaries cannot be left out of the planning process while the legality of the monument reduction is being challenged in court.

* Bears Ears National Monument is an invaluable place with resources that demand and deserve protection. The BLM and the USFS should manage Bears Ears National Monument to protect its irreplaceable values and should provide meaningful opportunities for Tribal consultation and co-management in the process.

Talking Points on Grand Staircase Escalante

BLM should continue to manage for the entire 1.9 million acre area under the existing 1999 Monument Management Plan (the original area of the monument) in order to protect the unique resources within the larger area that the BLM continues to acknowledge deserve protection. Furthermore, recent changes to the monument’s borders are under legal challenge, and no tax-payer dollars should be wasted changing plans before a final determination is made about the legality of the monument’s reduction.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was designated as a National Monument in 1996 to protect the incredible scientific, ecological, and paleontological resources within its 1.9 million acres. The Monument’s unique resources and its amazing geological and paleontological wonders deserve protection to ensure scientific, historic, spiritual and recreation opportunities for people who come from near and far.

While preparing the current management plans, BLM should prioritize the following:

* BLM should not open any lands to irreversible damage from oil and gas development, coal and other mining, energy infrastructure, and widespread off-road vehicle use. Designating the Little Desert area as an open off-road vehicle “play” area is unacceptable and should not be permitted.

* BLM should manage lands with wilderness characteristics to protect wilderness values, as this provides protection for paleontological resources, scenic vistas, and other irreplaceable Monument objects.

* All motorized travel routes within the planning area that were closed or limited under the 1999 Monument management plan must continue to be managed pursuant to that plan and BLM should take the opportunity to close routes that are harming Monument objects. Widespread off-road vehicle use should not be allowed, and no additional routes should be designated in the planning area.

* BLM should not include any alternative that considers putting public lands up for sale or disposal.

* To protect Monument objects and the wilderness, scenic, cultural, and ecological values of lands within the planning area, BLM should prohibit mechanical treatments of sagebrush, pinyon and juniper, and other vegetation, nor should BLM should use nonnative species for restoration seeding.

* The entire planning area is one of the most scenically-pristine areas in the United States, including for nighttime dark skies. BLM should not downgrade the scenic classifications (VRM) for lands within the planning area.

* BLM may take the opportunity to consider new proposals consistent with protecting Monument objects, such as designation of new areas of critical conservation concern, adopting a sustainable approach to grazing, or developing adaptive approaches to climate change.

* BLM should keep the Monument and KEPA closed to casual collection of fossils. As BLM admits, this approach damages fossils and risks irreversible destruction to both known and yet to be discovered resources.

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