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The DOI Won't Sell Off Lands That Trump Removed From a Utah Monument

The Department of the Interior on Friday reversed part of a draft plan for Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that would have allowed the sale of about 1,600 acres that used to be part of the monument. The Bureau of Land Management had released the plan on Wednesday, along with a separate plan for Bears Ears National Monument.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke didn't see the BLM's draft plan beforehand; he only learned the details when he read about them in the news. In a memo obtained by the Tribune, David Bernhardt, the department's deputy secretary, called the plan "inconsistent" with the department's policy. "The failure to capture this inconsistency stops with me," Bernhardt wrote.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order shrinking Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half last December. As Pacific Standard reported, the draft plan released on Wednesday included various options for the protection, development, or other uses of not only the remaining areas of the monument, but also the 862,431 acres Trump excised from it, now referred to as the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area. Within that area, about 1,600 acres were recommended for "disposal," meaning they would be sold off, possibly to the state or to private interests.

But Bernhardt was emphatic in his memo that there would be no sale of federal lands: "[T]he Department of the Interior is opposed to the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands to states or private interests," he wrote.