Feb. 7 (UPI) — The Bureau of Land Management on Thursday approved new management plans for two national monuments in Utah that have been reduced by the Trump administration.
The three management plans affect the reduced Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments as well as 900,000 acres removed from the Staircase now known as the Paria River District and permits more drilling, mining and cattle grazing in these areas.
“The approved plans keep the commitment of this administration to the families and communities of Utah that know and love this land the best and will care for these resources for many generations to come,” Casey Hammond, the Interior Department’s acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said.
Under the plans, much of Bears Ears and about 1 million acres in and around Grand Staircase will be open to grazing, while two new routes in Grand Staircase will also be opened to off-road vehicles.
Bureau of Land Management Utah communications director Kimberly Finch said the agency has received 15 mining claims on lands excluded from the monuments and the plans will allow for more drilling and mining.
The plans do not allow for commercial logging, but trees and other vegetation can be cut as part of treatments.
BLM reversed a decision to return livestock grazing to about 40 miles of the Escalante River wich Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, described as “a silver lining on a very dark day.”
“That was the right decision, but there are still a lot of problems with grazing in the Grand Staircase monument on lands where it had been eliminated and retired,” said Bloch.
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and various other groups have sued to invalidate President Donald Trump’s 2017 order to reduce the monuments established by former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama by a combined 2 million acres.
Last year, a federal judge declined a Justice Department motion to have the lawsuits dismissed and the Interior Department has received criticism for issuing plans with the litigation ongoing.
Hammond said Thursday the agency would not allow the legal process to delay its decision.
“If we stopped and waited for every piece of litigation to be resolved, we would never be able to do much of anything around here,” he said.