As President Trump resolves to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument designation, opinion in San Juan County remains divided, with Native Americans pitted against conservative political leaders. But the proposal to also shrink Grand Staircase/Escalante has galvanized pro-monument opposition among the business communities in the rest of Southern Utah’s small towns, from Bluff to Kanab, Escalante, Boulder, St. George and Moab.
Susan Hand, owner of an outdoor gear store in Kanab, organized a rally that drew hundreds of business owners and Chamber of Commerce members.
“What brought me to live on this tread of the Grand Staircase and what allows our business to thrive here is the protected public lands that surround us," she said. "These same brilliant landscapes that flank our communities draw millions of travelers from around the world. Our vast expanse of public lands is now gravely threatened. There are those in our own government who want to deconstruct our greatest Western legacy to sell off your lands, even your national monuments.”
The business leaders were unable to get any response from, or audience with Secretary Zinke, matching the experience of the Native American tribal groups. Scott Berry, co-owner of the Boulder Mountain Lodge, said he was “appalled” at Utah Senator Oren Hatch’s response to the tribes.
“When he dismissed their work as simply being pawns of environmental organizations," he said. "Ancient peoples have used these lands for thousands of years, before the pioneers came west, and to disregard that fact, and replace it with statements such as, ‘this land was stolen from Utah,’ proves that the once respectable senior senator from Utah has indeed become the senile senator from Utah.
"These unique and exquisite national monuments belong to all Americans. It’s only a matter of time before the state of Utah is forced to change its marketing slogan from ‘Life Elevated’ to ‘Life Excavated.’”
Cyrus Mejia founded the Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab and lays claim to being the largest employer in Kane County.
“Dear Secretary Zinke, I’m also co-owner of Raven’s Heart Gallery, a business located in Kanab, Utah, right near the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. I heard that Orrin Hatch recently proclaimed that all those who support the monument designations in Utah are extreme left wing radicals. It doesn’t matter which wing we are, the right wing, or the left wing, we’re all part of the same bird, and we live right here. We are locals!”
Christa Sadler, now living in Flagstaff, is a long-time geologist, river guide and author of “Where The Dinosaurs Roamed” in Grand Staircase.
“I was trained as a paleontologist, and when I moved here I worked 29 years ago in the monument before it became a monument," he said. "The Antiquities Act in this case was invoked to preserve not just a few archeological sites or one particularly pretty canyon. This entire region is filled with extraordinary and unique biological, geological, archeological, historical and paleontological resources. As one example, in the years since the monument’s establishment, dozens of new species of dinosaurs and other ancient creatures and plants have been discovered. The fossils from this monument have proven to be of global significance, and have put Utah on the map."