Utah Congressman Chris Stewart Hikes With Groups in Grand Staircase-Escalante To Talk About Land Issues

Jul 31, 2018, 10:20 PM | Updated: Aug 1, 2018, 9:20 pm

BOULDER, Utah – Since the beginning of human history, there have been fights about land.

Since then, things haven’t changed much.

“In this day and age, wilderness is our greatest asset,” said Tim Ridges. “There is nothing more valuable than irreplaceable wilderness.”

Congressman Chris Stewart talks with group (Photo by Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)

His opinion is why he decided to be part of a group hiking to Lower Calf Creek Falls in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Tuesday morning.

Of course, his main reason for going is that Utah Congressman Chris Stewart was also going to be part of the group.

“I’m concerned about our public lands in general. I love this place,” said Ridges, who lives in nearby Boulder.

Stewart invited people with different opinions to hike with him and talk about Grand Staircase. Especially since Stewart feels the size of the Monument should stay reduced, like it was since President Trump signed a proclamation this past December, essentially splitting Grand Staircase-Escalante into three smaller units.

Group hiking the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail (Photo by Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)

“You know what? If you just talk with people that are agreeing with you, you’re not doing your job,” said Stewart. “As a Congressman, that’s just the truth. I have a responsibility to listen to the other side to try and actually understand what it is they’re concerned about.”

Everybody in the group agrees there are certain places that should be protected in the Monument.

However, questions about how much should be protected, where the boundary lines are, and who should manage the land is where the disagreements begin.

It’s a controversial topic with another emotion, on both sides, to fill the 1.9 million acres the Monument was before the President’s proclamation.

National Monument sign (Photo by Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)

“We’re really confident that the President does not have the authority to change boundaries on National Monuments, especially in the Grand Staircase where Congress has ratified parts of the boundaries and that it received congressional appropriations for over 21 years,” said Nicole Croft, who is the Executive Director of the Grand Staircase Escalante Partners group.

Croft was not on the hike.

“That’s our whole position. That if this can happen here, in a beloved National Monument that’s existed for 21 years, what’s next?” she said.

Stewart says it’s still too early in the process to decide on boundaries and on what should be protected.

Not For Sale sign at the top of Lower Calf Creek Falls (Photo by Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)

“We’re still working on that,” he said. “It was just too big. It was nearly two million acres. Look, this is incredible land. We want to protect this. This is something special, and maybe at the same time create other economic opportunities for families”

It’s well known there are resources under the ground that could be mined.

Local leaders feel some mineral extraction and drilling would create jobs for a county that is economically depressed.

“I would love to see a place where we can raise our kids, keep our kids here, and have industry for them,” said Garfield Commissioner Jerry Taylor. “No, we’re not here to see off the public land. There are things in there we want to save and protect, but there are also areas that really aren’t as valuable, so to speak.”

Signs (Photo by Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)

It’s those areas that “aren’t as valuable” Taylor thinks could be looked at for some type of industry, including mining.

However, those in favor of leaving the Monument as it was feel all 1.9 million acres are valuable.

“Tourism is doing well. It’s booming. There’s business. It’s not like we need growth. The growth has happened,” said Ridges. “What we need to do is guide the protections of this place in a way that truly looks out for them.”

RELATED: Documents: Interior officials thought Utah national monument was boon to tourism before shrinking it

Congressman Chris Stewart talking about land issues (Photo by Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)

That protection is also why Congressman Stewart is looking at the possibility of creating a National Park within the Grand Staircase-Escalante boundaries.

“That’s the most stringent protection we can give something,” said Stewart.

RELATED: America’s most popular national parks are …

The exact boundary of a possible National Park isn’t known.

There is also the question as to who would manage it.

“This would be a National Park in name only,” said Croft. “The National Parks Conservation Association does not support this bill. It would be managed by, instead of the National Park Service, by our county commissioners, which is a concern for us.”

Congressman Chris Stewart hiking (Photo by Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)

When asked about who would manage the possible National Park, Stewart said it’s still too early in the process.

“I do hope there’s some local input and the final decision, frankly, hasn’t been made. That’s one of the things we want to talk with people about,” said Stewart. “We do believe it’s going to be a relatively small park. It’s not going to be the largest park in the state by quite a ways.”

Before all that, though, there are several lawsuits and challenges going through the court system to determine if Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument can be officially reduced.

Group posing for pictures (Photo by Mike DeBernardo, KSL TV)

Until that question is answered, Croft feels it’s difficult to understand why plans are already being made is if the President has the authority to reduce the size of a National Monument.

“We’ll do what we can to stop it,” said Croft.

Both sides know it’s going to be a long fight.

It seems, when it comes to land, it’s rarely easy.

“You can protect an area and you can create economic development,” said Stewart. “I think we can do both. Allow for the mineral extraction where it’s appropriate; protect the places where it’s not.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


FILE: Rudy Giuliani (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)...
KAREN MATTHEWS Associated Press

Heckler charged with assault after clapping Rudy Giuliani on the back

A heckler who clapped former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the back at a campaign event has been arrested on an assault charge.
18 hours ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the American Freedom Tour at the Austin Convention...
ERIC TUCKER Associated Press

Lawyer who advised Trump says federal agents seized phone

A lawyer who aided former President Donald Trump’s efforts in the 2020 election says that federal agents have seized his cell phone.
18 hours ago
(KSL TV)...
Michael Houck

Judge grants temporary restraining order blocking Utah’s abortion law

A Utah judge has granted Planned Parenthood's request for a temporary restraining order blocking Utah's abortion trigger law.
18 hours ago
Abortion right protestors at the Utah State Capitol in support if the Planned Parenthood lawsuit. (...
Karah Brackin

An ‘uphill battle’ for Planned Parenthood lawsuit against Utah’s trigger law

A law export says Planned Parenthood faces an 'uphill battle' with its lawsuit against Utah's trigger law.
18 hours ago
The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. The court in its nex...
Associated Press

Supreme Court rules for inmates seeking reduced prison terms

The Supreme Court has made it easier for certain prison inmates to seek shorter sentences under a bipartisan 2018 federal law.
18 hours ago
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 26: Bleu speak onstage during the 2022 BET Awards at Microsoft Theat...
JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr. AP Entertainment Writer

Stars use BET Awards stage to criticize Roe v. Wade ruling

Big stars used the BET Awards stage to strongly criticize the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strip away women’s constitutional protection for abortion.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Utah Congressman Chris Stewart Hikes With Groups in Grand Staircase-Escalante To Talk About Land Issues