My View
Misconceptions about monuments, wilderness, and conservation areas…

Grand County may see landscape scale designations as a result of the Public Lands Initiative created by Rep. Rob Bishop. Some confusion remains about the meaning of some designations that might occur. Below are described some of the possible designations that could result from the PLI. But Congress can sometimes be creative and add new types of designations.

National Monument (NM): In 1906, Congress gave the president the authority to create national monuments. Since then, 16 presidents have used the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments. Congress can also create NMs and has done so numerous times, including one new monument in 2014. Four of the five national parks in Utah began as national monuments. Utah currently contains seven national monuments. The proclamation determines the values the NM will protect for future generations. The proclamation can also spell out some of the activities that will continue to be permitted within the monument. For instance, the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM permits livestock grazing, hunting, camping, mountain biking and motorized recreation. In fact, 95 percent of the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM continues to be grazed by livestock. Conoco was also permitted to drill an oil well on an existing lease. Currently the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Service administer NMs.

National Conservation Area (NCA): A designation that Congress can make that would give particular guidance for the management of lands included in the NCA. There is no legislation that defines what an NCA is. When an NCA is created, the specific features or qualities for which the NCA is created are specified. In Utah, Rep. Bishop has already developed model language for designating NCAs in an agreement with Daggett County. Mineral withdrawals typically occur in an NCA. The management of the NCA would be determined through a public process that would create regulations that will accomplish the conservation of the features or qualities identified in the act. The management plan will be specific enough so that the managers and public will know what activities will be permitted and where those activities will be permitted. A National Conservation Area on public lands will also become a part the National Land Conservation System. This may result in additional funding for managing the NCA.

National Recreation Area (NRA): A designation that Congress can make that generally makes recreation a primary purpose for lands designated as NRAs. No legislation defines what an NRA is. Each NRA should have language that describes the purpose. This would include the types of recreation to be emphasized but could also contain other measures that would be regulated in the NRA. The National Park Service, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management can manage NRAs.

Wilderness Study Area (WSA): In 1976, Congress passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Congress instructed the Bureau of Land Management to inventory lands managed by the BLM for wilderness qualities. The BLM completed the wilderness inventories by November 1980, even though they had been given 15 years to conduct the inventory and make a recommendation to Congress. The BLM must manage WSAs so that wilderness qualities remain unimpaired until Congress decides to designate a WSA as a Wilderness Area or to release the WSA from further study. The current Public Lands Initiative could be the process that makes the decision regarding the future of the WSAs.

Wilderness Area: Only Congress can designate Wilderness Areas. In 1964 Congress passed the Wilderness Act. It states: “In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” The Wilderness Act passed the Senate, 73-12, on April 9, 1963. It passed the House of Representatives, 373-1, on July 30, 1964. Wilderness Areas permit livestock grazing, hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. Special provisions are in place that would allow disabled people to use wheelchairs or other aids in wilderness. A few outfitters specialize in rafting or horse-packing trips for those who need help getting into the wilderness. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of the residents of Utah can see designated wilderness from their homes or very nearby. There is no requirement for remoteness or restricting wilderness to backcountry areas, as opposed to front-country areas.

Grand County could also move towards resolving many conflicts about lands through the PLI. Such issues as the BLM Moab Master Leasing Plan, BLM Resource Management Plan litigation, and RS 2477 rights of way could be moved towards resolution.

Wayne Y. Hoskisson is a lifelong resident of Utah. He has lived in Moab for the last 15 years. He hopes the world will be as good for his grandchildren as it has been for him.

ByBy Wayne Hoskisson