The Bureau of Land Management released environmental impact statements and proposed resource management plans Wednesday for the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in Utah and initiated 90-day comment periods for both.
The plans call for options ranging from making no changes in managing the monuments to expanding resource development to many of the millions of acres President Trump removed from them last year.
While the resource management plans call for managing the lands for future generations, they also include details on the potential for resource production, including coal, natural gas and oil, as well as exploiting other resources like grazing and outdoor recreation.
In two separate news releases, BLM's Utah director, Ed Roberson, invited the public to comment on the plans for the two monuments.
"It's been nearly 20 years since the public has had the unique opportunity to help shape the future of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the BLM's first-ever national monument," Roberson said. "We recognize that local communities and the public at large care deeply about the future of Bears Ears National Monument. We invite the public to review and comment on the proposed plans, and to consider how they would like to see this remarkable landscape managed now and for future generations."
Opponents of Trump's decision to shave about 2 million acres from Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears, which were created by former Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, respectively, said the BLM is moving too quickly.
They said the agency should wait for the outcome of lawsuits filed against the Trump administration seeking to overturn the president's actions, arguing he didn't have the legal authority to remove those lands from federal protection.
"The thousands of pages included in these management plan proposals aren't worth the paper they're printed on," said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, a Denver-based conservation policy and advocacy group.
"Huge swaths of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments were eliminated illegally by President Trump and (Interior Secretary Ryan) Zinke," she said. "Legal scholars are in agreement (that) the courts will overturn the president's illegal action and the rush to finalize plans will prove to be an extraordinary waste of taxpayer dollars."
Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project, said Trump removed the land from the monuments to benefit oil, gas and other extraction industries.
"We know that both these monument reductions were made at the behest of the same special interests and extractive corporations that brought the Trump administration into office," Saeger said. "The administration should wait for legal challenges to the reductions to have their day in court before Secretary Zinke tries to open up stolen land to corporate land barons and sell off our protected lands to the highest bidder."
Shortly after Trump trimmed the size of the two monuments, several Native American tribes and conservation groups sued, saying the 1906 Antiquities Act gives presidents the power to create monuments but not to alter them.
The two plans detail various types of minerals located in the region but rate the likelihood for actual mining for some as being low, such as for minerals, tar sands or building material.
For example, the plan's report on such things as oil, gas and coal-bed methane for Grand Staircase-Escalante, which it refers to as GSEEL, says:
"Given the extreme high exploration risk, remoteness of the region, lack of pipelines and infrastructure, depressed prices, and other factors, it is unlikely that much if any drilling activity will take place in the GSEEL."
Still, the plans acknowledge that there has been historic interest from the private sector to exploit the area's resources.
"Up to 9 billion tons of potentially recoverable coal ... with beds thicker than 4 feet and under less than 3,000 feet of cover are in the Kaiparowits Plateau coalfield," one plan says. "Therefore, the coal resources of the Kaiparowits Plateau within the GSEEL area are rated high for development potential, except for within the Wilderness Study Areas, where the development potential is rated as low."