Southern Utah Locals Feelings on the Removal of Protected Status


I've been thinking about the removal of Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante from National Monument status. From what I understand as a Canadian, the area is now open to mineral exploration where before it wasn't(?).

I was a little disappointed at first. We had gone down to Utah last November and fell in love with the area. I'm still awe-struck with how breathtaking the State is. My wife and I actually keep in contact with an Escalante Real Estate agent, just in case. Obviously with mining, especially open-pit, there would be some irreversible scars on that beautiful landscape.

That being said, when we were there a few people mentioned that it was the tail-end of the tourist season. I guess during the winter it can get pretty slow, and some shops need to shut down early for lack of business. I live in a pretty beautiful part of the world as well (South-East BC), and have worked in Tourism. I've experienced the busy and slow times of the year, the disrespectful hordes, and the low wages of that industry. It can be difficult to get by in Tourism.

I now work as a dozer operator in an open pit mine. The company I work for owns five mines in a pretty small area and produces some of the highest grade steelmaking coal in the world. They employ over 3000 people, not including contractors. The mines are definitely not pretty to look at. There's been environmental problems, including selenium runoff in the local waterways that need to be addressed. That being said, it is the best job I've ever had. Not only do we not have to struggle financially, we are able to save more for the future, go on more trips (to Utah), and spend way more money locally.

So personally, in the area I live in, I believe mining has been a positive thing. Getting on at the mine has been one of the best things that have happened to our family.

That being said, how do locals feel about the removal of Grand Staircase and Bear Ears from protected status. Is it a good thing? Bad? Split down the middle? Are there even some decent prospective claims that could turn into mines? We stayed at some cabins for a couple days in Escalante and there were signs by the laundromat for oil riggers not to use the machines with their work clothes so I guess there's some oil as well?


I'm not a local but from nearby Arizona. It's probably a 5+ hr highway trip to get to Bears Ears / GSEM. But we've been to those areas in the past years. Visited GSEM just a couple months ago.
I tend toward thinking protected status is good, but it is a nuanced thing. In the Cedar Mesa area one of the locals who was involved in the tourist market mentioned that he'd purposefully drive a trail that looked like it hadn't been traversed for months to avoid authorities from closing the trail.

In spite of my general opinions about protection, I aware of the contradiction that many of the trails I have enjoyed in Utah (and the western US) were developed for mining or logging. I doubt that these trails would be approved after an environmental impact statement if they were proposed today, but they sure take us to some beautiful spots. I was thinking of an adaptation of the "not in my backyard" acronym - something like "not in my era."


All of the lands in question are still under Federal protection (meaning the Federal government owns and manages the land).

With the transition out of Monument status, is there the possibility some of these lands could be used for resource extraction? In theory yes, though I haven't heard of any proposed plans to do so in those areas.

People can still recreate in explore in those lands, and there are arguably less restrictions to certain forms of recreation (less road closures).

I've yet to see any real environmental threats arise because of the loss of Monument status. Moreover, as @LilPoppa points out, we need to all acknowledge that some lands, somewhere do need to be used for resource extraction in order to support our civilization. Our iphones, cars, fuel, electricity, clothing, ect. don't just appear out of thin air.

That and people really need to go read about the original intent behind the Monument designations (I think it's laid out in the Antiquities Act). It has very specific language that states Monuments should only encompass the least amount of land necessary to protect a certain area of historical or geological importance. It was meant to protect specific areas (think Devil's Tower or the Gila Cliff Dwellings). It was never meant to have broad designations which encompassed hundreds of thousands or millions of acres....some legal scholars might argue that such designations were over-reaches by the executive branch.
  • Like
Reactions: DCZ