Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is visiting Utah this week to determine if Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument should lose its national monument status or have its boundaries reduced. We welcome Secretary Zinke, and we want him to know that many residents of southern Utah value our monuments and desire to keep Grand Staircase National Monument in its current state and size.
Utah politicians have promoted the dismantling of the monument since its inception in 1996. They claim that boundary adjustments or a retracting of the monument status is necessary to protect the “prosperity, health, safety, and welfare” of the residents of Garfield and Kane Counties. This seems outrageous since personal income in communities bordering the monument has doubled since 1990 and personal per capita income in Garfield county outperforms the Utah average. I have visited Escalante many times over the last decade. Each time, I am amazed by all the new construction and businesses. In the past few years, a beautiful new clinic and pharmacy has opened. Several new markets, hotels, motels, cabins, RV parks, restaurants, outfitters, a large home store, and numerous touring businesses have sprung up.
Those who wish to dismantle the monument claim that jobs have been lost due to the monument’s establishment in 1996. This argument fails to mention the many jobs gained. The monument’s neighboring communities have experienced an economic transition, leaving behind one based solely on ranching, agriculture, and resource extraction. Today, the economy benefits greatly from increased tourism. The Escalante Chamber of Commerce reports that the area is experiencing an economic boom. Businesses are reporting record years. Finding enough people to fill jobs has become the problem.
Our politicians also argue that the Kaiparowitz Plateau contains 7 billion tons of coal. Coal mining is dirty and dangerous, and its energy conversion further compromises human and environmental health. It is ridiculous to claim that mining coal is essential to the “health, safety, and welfare” of the area’s residents. Since the 1990s, when the assessment of coal deposits were made in the Kaiparowitz Plateau, the US has moved toward new, renewable sources of energy that are not nearly so destructive to our health and environment. To dismantle one of our nation’s most beautiful monuments in order to extract resources that threaten workers’ health is an irresponsible, disingenuous, and immoral proposal.
As House Minority Leader Brian King (D–Salt Lake City) stated, “Those individuals who claim to represent us are not doing so.” They do not represent the businesses benefiting from Grand Staircase National Monument. They do not represent communities that benefit from clean air and water. However, campaign funding suggests that our politicians do represent something — the oil, gas, and mining industries that seek to carve up and profit from our public lands.
Articles related to “Letter to the editor: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument benefits its neighboring communities”
How to submit an article, guest opinion piece, or letter to the editor to The Independent
Do you have something to say? Want your voice to be heard by thousands of readers? Send The Independent your letter to the editor or guest opinion piece. All submissions will be considered for publication by our editorial staff. If your letter or editorial is accepted, it will run on suindependent.com, and we’ll promote it through all of our social media channels. We may even decide to include it in our monthly print edition. Just follow our simple submission guidelines and make your voice heard:
—Submissions should be between 300 and 1,500 words.
—Submissions must be sent to email@example.com as a .doc, .docx, .txt, or .rtf file.
—The subject line of the email containing your submission should read “Letter to the editor.”
—Attach your name to both the email and the document file (we don’t run anonymous letters).
—If you have a photo or image you’d like us to use and it’s in .jpg format, at least 1200 X 754 pixels large, and your intellectual property (you own the copyright), feel free to attach it as well, though we reserve the right to choose a different image.
—If you are on Twitter and would like a shout-out when your piece or letter is published, include that in your correspondence and we’ll give you a mention at the time of publication.