Today is Grand Staircase-Escalante’s 23rd anniversary. While those first two decades as a monument were far from perfect, they really set the standard in the U.S. for protecting an entire landscape for it’s biodiversity, cultural heritage, and scientific/archaeological research. And yet, rather than celebrate what should be a bipartisan victory in preserving one of the U.S.’s most precious landscapes, we have a mere 5 more days to write a protest letter top the BLM. 5 more days to let them know that their new management plan (E) is unacceptable. 5 days to let them know that we the people do not want to undo the time, work, and money invested in protecting the Grand Staircase. 5 days to remind them that the decision to reduce the monument by 1 million acres was illegal in the first plan–voiding this plan also illegal.
The situation is not hopeless however. Just this week the BLM’s decision to begin chaining large swaths of Piñon/Juniper Forests (and with it habitat for wildlife and endemic plants) was overturned. Full DOI report here.
The point is–our voices matter. Speaking up for public lands is a major part of what makes them public.
Below I’ve outlined how you can write a protest letter–perhaps think of it as a 23rd Birthday card. The format isn’t easy but this should decode the tricky parts.
Here is a link to the Management Plan–reference Chapter 3 as well as the individual sections you are protesting: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/lup/94706/20001993/250002378/02_GSENM-KEPA_Proposed_RMPs-Final_EIS_Volume1.pdf
Here is the link to the actual protest form. Once you start you only have an hour to finish before it times out. Tip: Write out your protest in a word doc, then copy and paste into the form. https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/comments/commentSubmission.do?commentPeriodId=8000202
If that level of detail is not your thing, you can still leave a comment through Monuments For All here: https://monumentsforall.org/grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument/?fbclid=IwAR171HHiAKwShJ4v23Gvc_Y9J3ZNovWljvftiFlw86fTfLrgL6lNX6ibP7I
And if you’re curious, here is an excellent interactive map that shows just how much has been removed from the monument: https://www.sltrib.com/news/2017/12/09/what-will-the-reduction-of-grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument-mean-for-popular-hiking-trails-and-sites/
In that desert climate the dozer and jeep tracks will not soon melt back into the earth, but the country has a way of making the scars insignificant. It is a lovely and terrible wilderness, harshly and beautifully colored, broken and worn until its bones are exposed, its great sky without a smudge of taint from Technocracy, and in hidden corners and pockets under its cliffs the sudden poetry of springs. Save a piece of country like that intact, and it does not matter in the slightest that only a few people every year will go into it. That is precisely its value. Roads would be a desecration, crowds would ruin it. But those who haven’t the strength or youth to go into it and live can simply sit and look. And if they can’t even get to the places on the Aquarius Plateau where the present roads will carry them, they can simply contemplate the idea, take pleasure in the fact that such a timeless and uncontrolled part of earth is still there.
These are some of the things wilderness can do for us. That is the reason we need to put into effect, for its preservation, some other principle that the principles of exploitation or “usefulness” or even recreation. We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.