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Historically many U.S. national monuments were upgraded to national parks after a few years, e.g. Grand Canyon (monument 1908, park 1919), Jackson Hole (monument 1943, park 1950) or Glacier Bay (monument 1978, park 1980). Surely it would be even easier today to upgrade a monument to a park, given greater public interest in conservation and a more powerful environmental lobby than existed back then?

Was there ever a serious effort, prior to the 2017 reduction, to upgrade Grand Staircase-Escalante from a National Monument to a National Park? If so, why did it fail? If not, why not?

The Wilderness Society, among others, appears to believe that the president has no authority to reduce or eliminate national monuments, only to create or expand them. If so, upgrading a monument to a park is superfluous in terms of the protection offered, and only needed to provide more amenities to visitors. However, I don’t know how widespread this view is. Although I am not a lawyer, it seems to me that once Congress designates a park, that would bind the president, but until then, how could a former president’s declaration bind a future president?

I’m having trouble locating any effort, because all my searches turn up Rep. Chris Stewart’s "too little, too late" proposal that post-dates the 2017 reduction and would therefore include only the reduced monument.

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    Not a full answer, but a national park is not an 'upgraded' national monument. They serve different purposes: a national park is made to preserve land for its beauty and tourism value and is designated by Congress, whereas a national monument is designated by a president to protect historical or scientfically valuable objects. – Giter Mar 22 '18 at 19:55
  • Several examples are provided, but statistically, were there really "many" and did the "upgrade" take place within "a few years"? A counter-example to "a few years" would be Pinnacles: Declared a national monument in 1908, it became a national park in 2013, more than one hundred years later. – njuffa Mar 22 '18 at 20:22
  • Guessing from my own experience, National Parks provide a good deal more infrastructure than National Monuments, and so require more staff & a larger budget, which probably aren't justified given its remoteness. – jamesqf Mar 22 '18 at 21:57
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    @jamesqf I don't think remoteness is the reason; consider Kobuk Valley National Park (less than 10,000 visitors/year, access by air taxi only) or the National Park of American Samoa (only last year exceeded 30,000 visitors). Far more remote with far fewer visitors than any Utah National Monument, which are all reachable by road within a day's drive from major cities. And GSENM has more infrastructure than Kobuk Valley or Katmai National Parks (it's even stronger in Canada, where some parks have less than 100 visitors/year). – gerrit Mar 23 '18 at 10:30
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Was there ever a serious effort, prior to the 2017 reduction, to upgrade Grand Staircase-Escalante from a National Monument to a National Park? If so, why did it fail? If not, why not?

There was no serious effort to change Grand Staircase-Escalante from a monument to a park--in fact, somewhat, the opposite.

With the designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante as a national monument, a change was made in the standard practice of who would oversee the monument. By leaving the the monument with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the occasional progression of monument to park was disrupted. This change came about after Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt talked with BLM California Director Ed Hastey.

NATIONAL MONUMENTS - How a Utah designation transformed politics in the West, July 13, 2016.

Babbitt got the idea during a 1993 hike through BLM's East Mojave National Scenic Area with BLM California Director Ed Hastey. A bill at the time by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) would have transferred the desert's scenic valleys, dunes and lava flows from BLM to the Park Service to become the Mojave National Preserve.

Hastey told Babbitt the lands should stay with BLM.

"We'd been managing it for a long time, and there's no question we had the expertise," Hastey told Greenwire. Transferring the lands would "impact the morale of our people who worked hard to make that a scenic area."

BLM - Guidelines For A Quality Built Environment, First Edition, December 2010, pp 15-16.

In recent decades, conservation and recreation have become increasingly central to BLM’s mission. In the 1990s, Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt was a powerful voice for BLM. Babbitt was influential in President Clinton’s decision to establish Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a new model for BLM. In the past, when national parks and monuments were established, management passed from BLM to the National Park Service. By contrast, Grand Staircase-Escalante remained under the jurisdiction of BLM. Babbitt believed that the agency should “have a sense of pride rather than ... a bunch of inventory in the garage that is discovered and given to someone else” (Allen 2002, 163)

Additional BLM national monuments have been established since Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established. These special places protect and raise awareness for spectacular natural landscapes, rare plant and animal communities, and outstanding archeological and paleontological resources. Suddenly “the lands nobody wanted” are drawing legions of new visitors and being recognized for their exceptional values. Christened the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), these BLM lands include national conservation areas and similar congressionally designated conservation areas, as well as national monuments, wilderness and wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, national scenic and historic trails, and conservation lands of the California Desert. The NLCS was legislatively established through the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act, affirming the importance of the System and its mission.

[Emphasis added.]


I’m having trouble locating any effort, because all my searches turn up Rep. Chris Stewart’s "too little, too late" proposal that post-dates the 2017 reduction and would therefore include only the reduced monument.

Rep. Stewart's proposal was made December 6, 2017 and died in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands December 14, 2017. [H.R.4558 - Grand Staircase Escalante Enhancement Act — 115th Congress (2017-2018)]

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    "Transferring the lands would "impact the morale of our people who worked hard to make that a scenic area." -> a fine example of bureaucrats shuffling papers around to make their own department more important. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Dec 2 at 20:17

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