The Case for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

President Donald Trump’s national monuments executive order is an attack on American national parks, public lands, and oceans. One of its specific targets is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

Although some Utah politicians argue that this monument has had a negative impact on the surrounding area, the reality on the ground is quite different: By a margin of better than 2 to 1, Utahns believe that the monument’s designation was good for their state. Even the Utah Office of Tourism cites the monument as one of its “most visited parks” and boasts about its vast size and “phenomenal” allure.

The truth is that Grand Staircase-Escalante is valuable. It deserves its status as a national monument for a multitude of reasons and should not be targeted by Trump’s misguided attempts to sell out U.S. public lands.

Rural Western counties with more protected public lands, including national monuments, have faster-growing populations, employment rates, and personal incomes than those with less protected land.

In fact, since Grand Staircase-Escalante’s designation in 1996, per capita incomes have risen 28 percent and employment has risen 40 percent in the communities adjacent to the national monument. While such statistics do not prove causation, they do disprove the idea that the national monument prevented economic growth.

The monument’s scientific, natural, and cultural value, as well as its more than 20,000 archeological sites, deserved protection when the monument was designated—and still do today.

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