Escalante, UT.  –  Nearly 600 business leaders have sent a letter to Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, urging the Trump administration to help protect their bottom lines by keeping existing boundaries and protections in place for national monuments – including Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Suzanne Catlett, president of the Escalante-Boulder Chamber of Commerce, says monuments are an economic driver for many rural communities.

“As head of a chamber representing 49 businesses, I can tell you that since the protection of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, our local tourism industry in Escalante is growing, and it’s thriving,” she says.

According to data from Headwaters Economics, counties closest to Grand Staircase-Escalante saw a 24-percent increase in jobs – and real income jumped by nearly a third – in the years following the monument’s designation.

After a four-month review process, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke decided that previous administrations over-reached their authority by limiting mining and ranching in protected areas. However, his agency received three million public comments, with 99 percent in favor of keeping protections in place.

The Headwaters research found economic growth near Grand Staircase-Escalante was also spurred by more businesses and retirees relocating, citing the area’s high quality of life.

Catlett expects to see that kind of growth near Bears Ears as well. She adds by ignoring the concerns of “mom and pop” businesses in favor of mining and drilling, the Trump administration is missing the bigger economic picture.

“Thanks to our national monuments, people want to live here, and new home construction is at an all-time high,” she notes. “We have no doubt that shrinking these national monuments would harm our local businesses.”

Another letter was sent in recent weeks to President Trump from 360 outdoor recreation businesses, highlighting the economic benefits of national monuments to the outdoor recreation industry.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Eric Galatas, Public News Service