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Utah Travel Headlines

Friday, February 19, 2010

Obama Administration Considers Creating 2 New National Monuments In Utah

A political firestorm erupted yesterday when reports surfaced saying parts of the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa are being considered as new National Monuments.

The two areas are very scenic and popular spots for recreation. The San Rafael Swell includes hundreds of deep, narrow canyons that are popular for hiking and canyoneering. The canyons that drop down from Cedar Mesa shelter a vast number of ancient Native American archaeological sites.

Conservationists hailed the news because such a declaration could prevent development in or near sensitive land areas. But Utah's Congressional delegation expressed concern that the federal government was trying to impose restrictive controls without input from local leaders.

This is considered another volley in the ongoing hot battle raging over how much Utah land should be controlled by the federal government and given wilderness-like protection.

Below are excerpts from news reports.

Salt Lake Tribune

"Given the attention Congress gives to Utah wilderness, it should come as no surprise that the administration is considering protections for Utah's incomparable landscapes such as the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa," said Richard Peterson-Cremer, legislative director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

But Utah's congressional members expressed plenty of surprise -- and outrage.

They remember all too well 1996, when then-President Bill Clinton surprised and angered many Utahns by going to the Grand Canyon during the heat of his re-election campaign and unilaterally setting aside 1.7 million acres in Kane and Garfield counties as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Deseret News

Outrage over the revelation is prompting Gov. Gary Herbert to get on a plane and meet with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Undersecretary David Hayes on Sunday and Monday to express his "deep concerns" over a move he characterized as "upsetting and offensive" because of lack of input.

Interior Department spokesman Kendra Barkoff on Thursday confirmed that the document came from her agency but said it merely reflects some "brainstorming discussions" with the Bureau of Land Management, and "no decisions have been made about which areas, if any, might merit more serious review and consideration."

"I think it's outrageous," said San Juan County Commission Chairman Bruce Adams. He said Cedar Mesa has potential oil and other minerals that could be developed, but that activity would be blocked by a monument. "There's also a huge amount of grazing there. That (monument) would put cattle people out of the business."

Similarly, Emery County Commission Chairman Gary Kofford said a San Rafael monument in his area "would be devastating" because of the effect it could have on mining and grazing.


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