SALT LAKE CITY — A group pushing for the establishment of new national monuments in Utah and Arizona released a report detailing a century of political opposition and angst to iconic parks like the Grand Canyon, the Redwoods and even Utah's own Canyonlands.
"The Wrong Side of History: 100 Years of Opposition to Our Nation's Natural Treasures" is a pictorial slideshow or PDF featuring quotes by those opposed, at the time, to protections afforded to multiple national parks.
It was compiled by the Center for Western Priorities after President Barack Obama established three new national monuments in California on Feb. 12 and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, reacted angrily, decrying the move as another usurp of local sentiments and control.
"Chairman Bishop is carrying on a proud tradition of anti-park naysayers that dates back to the founding of our first national parks, when critics warned that protecting the Grand Canyon from mining was a ‘fiendish and diabolical scheme,'" said Greg Zimmerman, policy director for the Center for Western Priorities, which describes itself as a nonpartisan conservation and advocacy organization.
"As history has proven time and again, our newest national monuments will be good for California’s economy, good for local communities and good for future generations," Zimmerman said.
The report notes that groups of trappers and other sportsmen were opposed to the creation of Yellowstone National Monument and notes that a Seattle tax commissioner said it would be foolhardy to tie up resources with the creation of Olympia National Park.
An Alaskan newspaper editorialized against designating Glacier Bay as a national monument in the 1920s, asserting: "This (designation) is a monstrous crime against development and advancement. It leads one to wonder if Washington has gone crazy catering to conservation faddists."
The report also quotes Ronald Reagan when he was the Republican Party's gubernatorial nominee for California, saying: "A tree is a tree. How many more do you need to look at?" in response to political pressure for a Redwood National Park designation.
In each of the segments on the parks, the report points out the number of park visitors, the jobs it supports and the amount of money it generates for the economy, from Redwood's $33 million to Glacier Bay's $160 million.
With Utah's Canyonlands, the report quotes Sen. Wallace F. Bennett, who in 1962 said, "All commercial use and business activity would be forever banned and nearly all of southern Utah's growth would be forever stunted."
The report notes that more than a half-million people visit the park, injecting $37 million into the economy.
The center is using the report to renew its call for the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and the Greater Grand Canyon National Monument in Arizona. The monument designation in Arizona would make permanent a ban on uranium mining around the existing park and institute prohibitions against other industrial development.
In Utah, an intertribal coalition has called for monument protection of nearly 2 million acres in San Juan County to protect an area called Bears Ears they say is rich with cultural artifacts.
Although Bishop and Rep. Jason Chafftez, R-Utah, have unveiled draft legislation that would set up a National Conservation Area for Bears Ears, the coalition said those protections don't go far enough.
County leaders have come out adamantly opposed to any more monuments in their neighborhood, pointing to San Juan County's private land ownership of just 8 percent. The rest is controlled by either the federal government or the state.
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