Chris Stewart: Listening to the neglected in Utah

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, talks with Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, prior to President Donald Trump’s arrival at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.

For 20 years, nearly 2 million acres of land have been locked up within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

For 20 years, ranchers have been kicked off the range.

For 20 years, the local economies have been negatively impacted.

Within the past 20 years, a number of local schools have had to declare emergencies because their student populations are vanishing. And why are they losing so many children? Because there are not enough jobs to raise a family and so the families have been forced to leave.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Protecting public lands doesn’t have to be a win-lose proposition. We can protect these precious antiquities and landscapes without making it impossible for the local communities to thrive. We can do better. And with the president’s help, we now will.

Some people I talk to seem to have the attitude that I am a Republican, therefore I don’t care about protecting the incredible beauty of this state. I think that’s a silly place to start a conversation. There is a reason I live in Utah. I love it here! I love to ski. I love to hike and rock climb. I love to sit on my porch and look up at the mountains. I love these lands and I want to preserve them. But there is a right way or a wrong way to do that, and abusing the Antiquities Act is wrong.

As we consider the future of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, it’s worth remembering how it was created. In 1996, with the stroke of a pen, President Clinton destroyed hundreds of rural jobs and the economic stability of local communities by locking up clean coal, endangering future grazing rights and cutting off multiple use and access. It’s also worth noting that President Clinton didn’t have the courage to announce the creation of the new monument in Utah — he did it from across the border in Arizona. (While it turned out that he didn’t know much about the people in rural Utah, he did know enough to understand that they did not want such an enormous…

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