SALT LAKE CITY — The Bureau of Land Management is preparing to craft new management plans for the revised boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments and is seeking public input.
The new plans are the result of proclamations issued last month by President Donald Trump modifying the boundaries of the monuments.
The land use plans are designed to improve access, facilitate multiple uses within the region, and manage and care for objects of historic and scientific interest.
Federal land managers plan to create specific plans for the Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits and Escalante Canyon units and for federal land originally included in the monument but now excluded from its boundaries.
Trump's proclamation reduced the nearly 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante into three units: the 211,983-acre Grand Staircase, the 551,117-acre Kaiparowits and the 243,241-acre Escalante Canyons.
New plans will also be crafted for Bears Ears, which was reduced 85 percent from 1.35 million acres and divided into two units.
On Friday, the BLM initiated the public scoping period for the land use planning process, kicking off a 60-day window in which the public can comment on potential components of the plans.
The agency will work with state and local partners on the plans, which are intended to provide clarity to the public on how they can use the land within the monument.
The public is encouraged to identify issues, management questions or concerns that should be addressed in this process. At some point, the agency will host public meetings to solicit written comments.
Environmental groups criticized the BLM for moving ahead with new management plans because Trump's actions are under legal challenge.
"The BLM’s rush to act is irresponsible. No planning efforts should move forward until the legitimacy of these new proclamations and dismantling of protected areas are fully settled by the courts," said Phil Hanceford, conservation director of the Wilderness Society.
"We fully expect these new proclamations to be overturned by the courts, making these planning efforts a colossal waste of time and money for an already strapped agency," Hanceford said.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance also condemned the move toward crafting new plans.
"It is absurd for Secretary (Ryan) Zinke to double down on President Trump’s illegal proclamations by instructing the Bureau of Land Management to rush forward writing management plans for monuments that will inevitably be overturned by the courts," said Scott Groene, the group's executive director.
Multiple groups are suing the Trump administration for his proclamations altering the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monument, designated in 2016 by former President Barack Obama.
Comments on the planning process at Grand Staircase can be emailed to BLM_UT_CCD_Monuments@BLM.gov, through ePlanning, or via mail at 669 S. U.S. 89, Kanab, UT 84741.