Letter to the Editor: Coal mining will not make Grand Staircase-Escalante more prosperous, healthy and safe

This file photo shows the Toadstools near Big Water located within the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Carolyn Barton, St. George News

OPINION — Recent bills supported by our Washington County legislators Walt Brooks, V. Lowry Snow, Jon Stanard and Brad Last propose to reduce the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Many residents of Southern Utah value the protection of this beautiful area and have benefited from the monument.

As House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, stated, “Those individuals who claim to represent us are not doing so.”

Politicians proposing to reduce the size of the monument, per HCR 12, claim that boundary adjustments are necessary to protect the “prosperity, health, safety, and welfare” of the residents of Garfield and Kane Counties. These claims are outdated and inaccurate.

Read more: Resolution to reduce the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument could cost state $20 million

In fact, the monument has improved the economy in neighboring areas to the point where personal per capita income over the past six years in Garfield County has outperformed the Utah average. I have visited Escalante many times over the last decade, and I have seen many economic gains. In the past few years, a beautiful new clinic has opened with a pharmacy and dental care facilities. Furthermore, there are markets, motels, restaurants, outfitters, tour services and a huge new home store.

Those who wish to reduce the size of the monument claim that 81 jobs have been lost due to the monument’s establishment in 1996. The argument that jobs have been lost fails to mention the many jobs gained. The monument’s neighboring communities have experienced an economic transition, leaving behind one based on ranching/agriculture and resource extraction to an economy that benefits greatly from increased tourism.

The Escalante Chamber of Commerce reports that the area is experiencing an economic boom. Businesses are reporting record years. In fact, finding enough people to fill jobs has become a problem as there is limited long-term rental housing available, and the cost of buying a house is becoming difficult for some due to increased housing values and limited supply.

Our politicians argue that the Kaiparowitz (sic) Plateau contains 7 billion tons of coal that should be mined.

Coal mining is dirty, 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 (sic) Plateau, the U.S. has moved toward new, renewable sources of energy that are not nearly so destructive to our health and environment.

To reduce one of our nation’s most beautiful monuments in order to extract resources that threaten workers’ health and are rapidly being replaced by cleaner energy sources is an irresponsible, disingenuous and immoral proposal.

Our Utah representatives are failing to accurately represent the residents of Southern Utah. They do not represent the businesses benefiting from Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. 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.

Submitted by Vicky Aeschbacher, Hurricane

Ed. note: The proper spelling is Kaiparowits Plateau.

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

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Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.


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  • Craig April 21, 2017 at 10:14 am

    As we scramble for energy resources, perhaps it’s time to review our immigration policies.

    We accept more than 1 million immigrants a year.

    Is it time to markedly limit that so we are not looking at places like this for more energy?

    • Real Life April 21, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      I totally agree. And while we are at it, convince a lot of locals that it is not so necessary to pollute the earth with so many of their offspring.

  • comments April 21, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    mine it, drill it, frack it, use it up. when it’s gone it’s gone…

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