Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee announced their sponsorship of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Grazing Protection Act. The bill comes at a time when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 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.

Senator Hatch said, “When President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante a monument, I called it ‘the mother of all land grabs.’ But the 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.

Senator 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 are now in the process of amending their management plan for the monument – where several options that would either decrease or eliminate grazing altogether are under consideration.

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