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A new appropriations bill making its way through the House would significantly undermine the Biden administration’s goals for managing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, according to multiple environmental groups.

The controversial bill, passed by the House Appropriations Committee in July, aims to tie the hands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in two key ways when it comes to overseeing the sprawling 1.9 million acre monument. First, it would prevent the BLM from managing the land according to President Biden’s 2021 proclamation that restored the monument to its full original boundaries after former President Trump slashed its size in half in 2017.

Instead, the bill would mandate the BLM continue managing the monument under the reduced boundaries and guidelines put in place by the Trump administration. Second, the bill would block the BLM from implementing its proposed Public Lands Rule that would allow conservation efforts to be weighted equally with grazing, mining, and other land uses.

The House bill is opposed by 50 environmental groups, including the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), whose director Travis Hammill warned it “would undermine management within the reestablished monument boundaries.” Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart declined requests for comment on the bill, which is expected to see a full House vote in September.

Local officials in Utah have also worked to stymie the BLM’s new draft management plan for the monument that was introduced earlier this month. Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock said he worked with Rep. Stewart to limit the BLM’s funding and claimed the new plan would “wipe out grazing, bankrupt ranchers and farmers, close some roads and stop ATV use.”

However, conservationists argue the BLM’s preferred proposal would be a major improvement over the Trump administration’s lax rules. It would establish four management zones limiting public access and development in the more pristine areas of the monument while banning target shooting and limiting OHVs in certain zones. The BLM is accepting public comment on the proposal until November 9, 2023 as it seeks to finalize a plan balancing conservation with recreation in the iconic landscape.

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