When President Clinton stood on the north rim of the Grand Canyon on September 18, 1996, and designated 1.7 million acres of land in Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, he created an enormous challenge for public land management and planning in the state. The challenge was this: Despite the secrecy and the lack of public involvement in creating the Monument, could public land managers, elected officials, and local communities join to create a new model for environmental management and intergovernmental planning?
The seeds for a new model were planted in 1994 when federal, state, and local land managers jointly authored a concept paper titled, “Canyons of the Escalante: A National Ecoregion.” That paper outlined a common management vision for the area, which preserved the natural setting while providing real and sustainable benefits to the local economy. Governor Leavitt has drawn from the concepts articulated in that paper to create his vision of the new Monument. He has also directed state and local leaders to be full partners in the planning process to make his vision a reality.
This paper describes the Monument planning process from the perspective of the state of Utah. This planning process was designed jointly by the state and Department of the Interior to create a model for intergovernmental resource management. First, this paper addressed the demographic and economic setting of the surrounding areas to demonstrate the need for an inclusive and holistic planning process. Next, this paper articulates the state’s overall vision for the Monument and proposed an implementation of that vision.
The state’s vision was to participate in a cooperative effort to make the Monument a showcase for innovative planning and management, while preserving the area’s resources and providing benefits to the surrounding communities, the state of Utah, and the unique demographic and economic circumstances of the area just described. An added benefit of this cooperative process was that it can be a model for future state and federal partnerships in other multijurisdictional contexts.
The planning process and ultimate management of the Monument was designed to achieve several broad goals:
- Establish a model for environmental management.
- Create a new standard for intergovernmental planning.
- Strengthen relationships among federal, state, and local governments.
- Maximize economic benefits for local residents.
- Increase the diversity and sustainability of the local economies.
- Capture sufficient government revenue from visitors to pay for the costs of services provided by local and state government.
- Develop communities that are better places to live and work.
Implementation of the Vision
To implementation of the vision embodied in these broad goals required extensive coordination. In the months after the designation of the Monument, the state of Utah, local government entities, and the federal government have worked to forge a cooperative three-year planning process. That process, along with several other important components helped make the vision a reality, as addressed below.
Monument Planning Team
The state of Utah had significant capabilities that were essential to ensuring interdisciplinary expertise in the development of the Monument plan. Accordingly, the state assigned five people to work full-time on the Monument planning team in Cedar City. As fully integrated members of the planning staff, rather than visitors with occasional input, they were an intrinsic part of the planning effort. As a result, the plan benefited from their expertise and access to vital information. Also, to ensure local acceptance and involvement, a member of the Five County Association of Governors joined the team. The state members of the planning team included a wildlife biologist, geologist, paleontologist, historian/anthropologist, and community planner/socioeconomics expert.
Subcabinet Advisory Group
A subcabinet group of state officials was formed to support and provide an interface between state agencies and the members of the planning team. Because the subcabinet group was a full partner in the planning process, all work done by any agency with respect to the Monument was done in conjunction with and reviewed before release by this subcabinet group.
Community and Economic Development Strategy Committee
The state of Utah, in partnership with local governments in Kane and Garfield Counties, proposed developing a community and economic development strategy for the land adjacent to the Monument and for other Monument planning issues that directly affected the surrounding communities. This effort provided an opportunity to maximize short- and long-term benefits to local cities, counties, and other political entities. One of the major goals of the team was further consideration of economic, social, and community planning issues in the Monument management plan and promotion of compatibility between their economic strategy and the plan. One member of this strategy team with appropriate background and experience was to serve as the state’s representative on the Monument planning team. In addition, DOI will provide assistance to this team, as will the governor and state agencies. The team reported to the Southwestern Utah Planning Authorities Council (SUPAC) to ensure coordination with all other governmental entities in the region. The members of the team were appointed by the governor in consultation with local elected officials. Its membership was not to exceed twenty-five members and included representatives from the Southern Utah University, Governors Office of Planning and Budget, Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, Utah Travel Council, Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Garfield County Commission, Kane County Commission, city mayors, Paiute Indian Tribe, area business leaders, and environmental groups. Ex-officio members included representatives from the BLM, National Park Service, United States Forest Service, Rural Development Council, SUPAC, Utah State Legislature, and Utah’s congressional delegation.
Existing Areas of Cooperation
The planning process also capitalized on the current state and federal agency coordination efforts. These include, but are not limited to: (1) the State Resource Development Coordinating Committee, which facilitated the governor’s consistency review as required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA); (2) the recent assistance agreement between the BLM and Kane County for community participation in the Monument Planning effort; (3) SUPAC, which coordinated the exchange of planning information between cities, counties, and state and federal agencies throughout southwestern Utah; and (4) the Five County Association of Governors planning office, which facilitated planning for counties in southwestern Utah.
The state and federal agencies whenever possible, facilitated the exchange of data between their agencies and other entities, both to ensure that the highest quality information was available to the planning effort and to enhance the public’s knowledge and understanding of the Monument. This data exchange included both tabular data and geographical (digital) data. Innovative telecommunications strategies such as those suggested by Governor Leavitt in other contexts were employed, as well as electronic transfer capabilities.
The state participated in developing an organized and efficient approach to Monument research by identifying research needs that deserved attention from state agencies, federal agencies, academic institutions, and others. Scientific research addressing the paleontologic, archaeologic, and energy or mineral resources and was valuable to the state of Utah. The value of many of these resources is obvious, but the value of others may have been known only to a handful of scientists involved in that field. Identification of these issues prior to the initial phases of the management plan development ensured that the plan was based on sound scientific information. To accomplish that objective, the State Advisory Council on Science and Technology, which acts as a liaison to both academic and private scientific experts within the state, hosted a Scientific Forum in Cedar City during November 1997. The conference was designed to ensure focus on high priority research needs and cooperation in funding and project design, and to reduce the potential for duplication of effort.
Despite the flawed process that led to its declaration, the Monument creates a unique opportunity to establish a new model for environmental management and intergovernmental coordination. Governor Leavitt has made his policy clear- the state will fully engage as a partner in the planning process. The state’s commitment to the process arose from the unique economic and demographic setting of the communities adjacent to the Monument, whose economies were tied to public lands. The state’s vision for the Monument is to preserve the area’s resources while providing real and sustainable economic benefits to the surrounding communities. To implement this vision, the state participated on the Monument planning team working to ensure that Monument planning capitalized on the existing areas of cooperation and that data are exchanged efficiently. Ultimately, the state used this process to heal the wounds created with the formation of the Monument. The state has been successful because of the significant public participation by all players coming away from the process feeling well served and proud of what had been created.