Utah senators sponsor grazing protection legislation; Grand Staircase-Escalante

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee announced Thursday they are sponsoring a bill to enact the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Grazing Protection Act. The bill comes at a time when the Bureau of Land Management has reduced permitted grazing to the lowest levels the range has seen, despite recognition of grazing as an important heritage of the region.

This bill will preserve the historical uses of the land in addition to granting BLM clear authority to issue future grazing permits.

Hatch said: “When President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante a monument, I called it ‘the mother of all land grabs.’ But BLM’s ongoing campaign to reduce grazing here makes its look more like a hijacking. We cannot stand idly by while work that previous generations have done is being undermined.”

Lee said:

Grazing is a critical component of Utah’s rural economy and this amendment, if adopted, would preserve the grazing rights that Utah families have used for generations.


In 1996, President Clinton, without any input from the State of Utah, used the authority granted to the president under the Antiquities Act to issue a proclamation designating 1.7 million acres of land in Garfield and Kane Counties as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Grazing rights, however, remained grandfathered into the language of the proclamation, and the BLM’s existing Resource Management Plan for the area included a continuing grazing component. Unfortunately, over time, BLM has issued fewer grazing permits and is now in the process of amending its management plan for the monument — where several options that would either decrease or eliminate grazing altogether are under consideration.

Read more: Grand Staircase-Escalante grazing management plan; public comment opportunities

While Hatch and Lee have introduced this legislation as an amendment to the Keystone pipeline in the Senate, they will introduce it as a standalone bill in the near future. Congressman Chris Stewart plans to introduce a companion bill in the House.

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Submitted by the Offices of Sen. Orrin Hatch

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  • Bender January 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    So in other words, in spite of a prolonged drought, the DC politicians are going to attempt to override the science-based decisions of the BLM employees on the ground in the monument. I proposed an addendum to the legislation; rename the monument Cow Burnt National Monument.

    • WYO_RANGEMAN January 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      You do realize that it was the very same science based decisions that allowed grazing in the first place right. The BLM has realized for many years that grazing maintains and enhances the rangeland resources by decreasing the severity of wildfires, maintaining native plant communities, and simulating the effects large ungulates had on the landscape. DC politicians are NOT attempting to override the science based decisions made by the BLM, they are trying to preserve the science based rights of the livestock producers. If you want to point a finger at the someone for trying to override your so called science based BLM decisions, then you have to look no further than Mr. Marvel to the north of you. Everything that spews from that source is contaminated with lies and deceit disguised by rhetoric.

      • N AZ Tree Hugger January 24, 2015 at 12:50 pm

        Cattle as preservers of wilderness! Now that’s one for the books. I live on land adjacent to national forest grazing leases and see firsthand how cattle wreck the place. Why is it that ranchers seem to think they *own* public land? Get ranching special-interest entitlements out of national treasures like Grand Staircase!!

    • Fireguy34 January 24, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      Hey Bender, I know several folks in the range management staff at the GSENM. Their science is being overridden by biased managers that run the monument, and by the recommendations of environmental groups and their private “science” staffs (that again, only support the motives of their groups). I would also like to know where you get your information about this prolonged drought. The area of the GSENM has been at or above normal on annual precip for several years now. We have had record rainfall during the late summer/early fall the last 2 years.

  • Just Curious January 22, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Since the Clinton designation was almost twenty years ago, I’m just curious about what kind of action the Utah legislators and “concerned citizens” took before now. Did people protest in 1996? Was legislation like Hatch et al are propsing drafted and proposed then? Has it taken 20 years to become an issue and if so, why now?
    Just Curious

    • Bender January 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      You’re seeing the Republic controlled senate flexing their new majority muscles and passing red meat message bills.

    • Viojezajanu January 22, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      Oh, it was a HUGE issue back in the day. Grazing has existed on the grand-staircase for 150+ years, and it was a blow to ranchers when, one day, they suddenly got kicked off the land. I believe the original purpose in creating the monument was to stop energy production, which would have potentially devastated the landscape unchecked, but the cattle business suffered as a result. The cowboys that went out of business became the fallout of that decision. In the town of Escalante itself, the fight was met with violence and vandalism. There was a time when the staircase had around 50,000 cattle on it. Now, when a tourist sees one cattle wandering down a trail they’re not supposed to be on, the whole nation interprets it as a bunch of redneck cowboys purposely destroying public lands. The rural communities around the staircase become very heated on this subject, but their voices are largely undercut by city-slicker environmentalists.

      (This is coming from a hippie farmer who lives in Escalante and understands soil composition–yes, cows aren’t the best thing to have on the desert, but a few might be okay over the next few years, and they certainly aren’t as damaging as what I’ve seen in the growth of tourism)

      • Native born New Mexican January 22, 2015 at 10:48 pm

        As my screen name implies I am from a very rural area of New Mexico. We have the same problems with government usurpation of lands and resources in N. Mex. They find every stupid reason to take away and lock up more land and resources. Now in New Mexico it is the meadow jumping mouse. There is just one problem- the government can’t even prove the mouse exists but that does not stop them. My view of this is- go away government. Far away! In New Mexico people lived off the land for hundreds of years before the US government came on the scene back in the 1840’s. There is a lot of resentment about how that all came to be in the first place but now with government locking up every stream, rock and tree things are getting really unpleasant.
        All of you who think government lands are being protected especially for your benefit are fools. The international criminals who run the US government and the world are laughing themselves silly at you. It is all about them and always has been. They not you own it all and they are protecting their assets. If it served their purposes to drop a bomb in your sacred Zion Park they would do it and not bat an eyelash. In the end it is about controlling every person and every thing in the world. There is no God to them but themselves.

    • WYO_RANGEMAN January 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      You’re seeing the influence of left wing environmental groups who have been trying for years to see livestock grazing ceased. Grazing on public lands has been an issue since the Reagan administration, and his sage brush rebellion. Reagan saw, and understood, what was slowly happening and he tried to do something about it. I think that Bender is “one of them” left wing enviro nut jobs who is spewing his unsubstantiated claims against livestock grazing to whoever will lend him an ear.

  • mesaman January 22, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Are assume you are all cattle ranchers and understand the conditions that you espouse. In my opinion, I would rather see cows grazing in the GS monument than a car load of New Yawk gawkers interfering with the landscape.

    • Just Curious January 22, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      By all means keep the tourists and their money away. Oh, by the way – it’s a National monument!!! and open even to New Yorkers. And don’t forget – the head honcho of the Utah saints, J. Smith, was a New Yorker, too.

      • mesaman January 22, 2015 at 6:33 pm

        At least we agree on this, and, by the way it’s still part of Utah.

    • Bender January 22, 2015 at 6:53 pm


    • WYO_RANGEMAN January 23, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      The multiple use doctrine mandates just that, even livestock grazing and tourists. If the ecosystem can sustain the use, then let it happen. All the various uses benefit the local communities from livestock production to tourists. Remove the tourists and you remove a substantial chunk of change from your local economy.

  • beacon January 22, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Crazy is as crazy does!

  • Not Buying It January 23, 2015 at 12:32 am

    I have tennis elbow

  • ladybugavenger January 23, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    I like my cows to graze before I eat em

  • beacon January 24, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Senator Lee states, “Grazing is a critical component of Utah’s rural economy and this amendment, if adopted, would preserve the grazing rights that Utah families have used for generations.” Perhaps Sen. Lee and others should listen to the 10/15/14 Revenue & Taxation Interim Committee meeting (Item #4 – Special Service Issue Districts). There’s quite a discussion about Utah commissioners apparently sticking it to their own fellow Utah ranchers and their grazing rights. I’m sure this is going to court, but perhaps points to the fact that the feds are not the only ones who pose problems for Utahns who have grazing rights. Very complicated case but some interesting and troubling testimony. Speakers were asked to speak under oath.

  • Boulderite January 25, 2015 at 10:22 am

    I live in Boulder (Ut) surrounded on 3 sides by the Monument, retired here from SLC to hike the Monument and the Dixie NF. I have yet to see Sen. Hatch or any other legislators out there, but I do see cows, constantly, and I constantly hear how important this part of our “rural heritage” is. In 1915 or ’55 maybe. But at what point does reality trump “heritage”? 1.3 million or so acres and what . . . a handful of grazing permit holders? Compared to how many 1000’s of tourists, of tourist businesses, and tourist jobs, and millions of dollars — versus a handful of ranchers? Where 20% of the ranchers own 80% of the permitted area? How much do these cattlemen put back into the local economy? Is it logical to graze a desert when it requires 100 acres per cow unit? (Versus 1 acre in Kansas.) That’s an expensive, illogical bow to “heritage”. Especially when Hatch is cowing down (if you will) to a few rural County Commissions (and one billionaire) that dislike tourism and still love any extractive industry, in spite of all the evidence that the only, the singular growth industry in Garfield County is . . . tourism. And did that billionaire who is buying up all the ranches and permits he can find in the county ever have a talk with Hatch and the other legislators about just how dang important this part of our heritage really is? (Or did he just let his money and political contributions do the talking for him? But hey, isn’t buying politicians also a big part of our “heritage”.)

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