Establishment of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
By the President of the United States of America
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument's vast and austere landscape embraces a spectacular array of scientific and historic resources. This high, rugged, and remote region, where bold plateaus and multi-hued cliffs run for distances that defy human perspective, was the last place in the continental United States to be mapped. Even today, this unspoiled natural area remains a frontier, a quality that greatly enhances the monument's value for scientific study. The monument has a long and dignified human history: it is a place where one can see how nature shapes human endeavors in the American West, where distance and aridity have been pitted against our dreams and courage. The monument presents exemplary opportunities for geologists, paleontologists, archeologists, historians, and biologists.
The monument is a geologic treasure of clearly exposed stratigraphy and structures. The sedimentary rock layers are relatively undeformed and unobscured by vegetation, offering a clear view to understanding the processes of the earth's formation. A wide variety of formations, some in brilliant colors, have been exposed by millennia of erosion. The monument contains significant portions of a vast geologic stairway, named the Grand Staircase by pioneering geologist Clarance Dutton, which rises 5,500 feet to the rim of Bryce Canyon in an unbroken sequence of great cliffs and plateaus. The monument includes the rugged canyon country of the upper Paria Canyon system, major components of the White and Vermilion Cliffs and associated benches, and the Kaiparowits Plateau. That Plateau encompasses about 1,600 square miles of sedimentary rock and consists of successive south-to-north ascending plateaus or benches, deeply cut by steep-walled canyons. Naturally burning coal seams have scorched the tops of the Burning Hills brick-red. Another prominent geological feature of the plateau is the East Kaibab Monocline, known as the Cockscomb. The monument also includes the spectacular Circle Cliffs and part of the Waterpocket Fold, the inclusion of which completes the protection of this geologic feature begun with the establishment of Capitol Reef National Monument in 1938 (Proclamation No. 2246, 50 Stat. 1856). The monument holds many arches and natural bridges, including the 130-foot-high Escalante Natural Bridge, with a 100 foot span, and Grosvenor Arch, a rare "double arch." The upper Escalante Canyons, in the northeastern reaches of the monument, are distinctive: in addition to several major arches and natural bridges, vivid geological features are laid bare in narrow, serpentine canyons, where erosion has exposed sandstone and shale deposits in shades of red, maroon, chocolate, tan, gray, and white. Such diverse objects make the monument outstanding for purposes of geologic study.
The monument includes world class paleontological sites. The Circle Cliffs reveal remarkable specimens of petrified wood, such as large unbroken logs exceeding 30 feet in length. The thickness, continuity and broad temporal distribution of the Kaiparowits Plateau's stratigraphy provide significant opportunities to study the paleontology of the late Cretaceous Era. Extremely significant fossils, including marine and brackish water mollusks, turtles, crocodilians, lizards, dinosaurs, fishes, and mammals, have been recovered from the Dakota, Tropic Shale and Wahweap Formations, and the Tibbet Canyon, Smoky Hollow and John Henry members of the Straight Cliffs Formation. Within the monument, these formations have produced the only evidence in our hemisphere of terrestrial vertebrate fauna, including mammals, of the Cenomanian-Santonian ages. This sequence of rocks, including the overlaying Wahweap and Kaiparowits formations, contains one of the best and most continuous records of Late Cretaceous terrestrial life in the world.
Archeological inventories carried out to date show extensive use of places within the monument by ancient Native American culture. The area was a contact point for the Anasazi and Fremont cultures, and the evidence of this mingling provides a significant opportunity for archeological study. The cultural resources discovered so far in the monument are outstanding in their variety of cultural affiliation, type and distribution. Hundreds of recorded sites include rock art panels, occupation sites, campsites and granaries. Many more undocumented sites that exist within the monument are of significant scientific and historic value worthy of preservation for future study.
The monument is rich in human history. In addition to occupations by the Anasazi and Fremont cultures, the area has been used by modern tribal groups, including the Southern Paiute and Navajo. John Wesley Powell's expedition did initial mapping and scientific field work in the area in 1872. Early Mormon pioneers left many historic objects, including trails, inscriptions, ghost towns such as the Old Paria townsite, rock houses, and cowboy line camps, and built and traversed the renowned Hole-in-the-Rock Trail as part of their epic colonization efforts. Sixty miles of the Trail lie within the monument, as does Dance Hall Rock, used by intrepid Mormon pioneers and now a National Historic Site.
Spanning five life zones from low-lying desert to coniferous forest, with scarce and scattered water sources, the monument is an outstanding biological resource. Remoteness, limited travel corridors and low visitation have all helped to preserve intact the monument's important ecological values. The blending of warm and cold desert floras, along with the high number of endemic species, place this area in the heart of perhaps the richest floristic region in the Intermountain West. It contains an abundance of unique, isolated communities such as hanging gardens, tinajas, and rock crevice, canyon bottom, and dunal pocket communities, which have provided refugia for many ancient plant species for millennia. Geologic uplift with minimal deformation and subsequent downcutting by streams have exposed large expanses of a variety of geologic strata, each with unique physical and chemical characteristics. These strata are the parent material for a spectacular array of unusual and diverse soils that support many different vegetative communities and numerous types of endemic plants and their pollinators. This presents an extraordinary opportunity to study plant speciation and community dynamics independent of climatic variables. The monument contains an extraordinary number of areas of relict vegetation, many of which have existed since the Pleistocene, where natural processes continue unaltered by man. These include relict grasslands, of which No Mans Mesa is an outstanding example, and pinon-juniper communities containing trees up to 1,400 years old. As witnesses to the past, these relict areas establish a baseline against which to measure changes in community dynamics and biogeochemical cycles in areas impacted by human activity. Most of the ecological communities contained in the monument have low resistance to, and slow recovery from, disturbance. Fragile cryptobiotic crusts, themselves of significant biological interest, play a critical role throughout the monument, stabilizing the highly erodible desert soils and providing nutrients to plants. An abundance of pack rat middens provides insight into the vegetation and climate of the past 25,000 years and furnishes context for studies of evolution and climate change. The wildlife of the monument is characterized by a diversity of species. The monument varies greatly in elevation and topography and is in a climatic zone where northern and southern habitat species intermingle. Mountain lion, bear, and desert bighorn sheep roam the monument. Over 200 species of birds, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons, are found within the area. Wildlife, including neotropical birds, concentrate around the Paria and Escalante Rivers and other riparian corridors within the monument.
Section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431) authorizes the President, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and to reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.
Now, Therefore, I, William J. Clinton, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431), do proclaim that there are hereby set apart and reserved as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, for the purpose of protecting the objects identified above, all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the United States within the boundaries of the area described on the document entitled "Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument" attached to and forming a part of this proclamation. The Federal land and interests in land reserved consist of approximately 1.7 million acres, which is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.
All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of this monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from entry, location, selection, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public land laws, other than by exchange that furthers the protective purposes of the monument. Lands and interests in lands not owned by the United States shall be reserved as a part of the monument upon acquisition of title thereto by the United States.
The establishment of this monument is subject to valid existing rights.
Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to diminish the responsibility and authority of the State of Utah for management of fish and wildlife, including regulation of hunting and fishing, on Federal lands within the monument.
Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to affect existing permits or leases for, or levels of, livestock grazing on Federal lands within the monument; existing grazing uses shall continue to be governed by applicable laws and regulations other than this proclamation.
Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation; however, the national monument shall be the dominant reservation.
The Secretary of the Interior shall manage the monument through the Bureau of Land Management, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, to implement the purposes of this proclamation. The Secretary of the Interior shall prepare, within 3 years of this date, a management plan for this monument, and shall promulgate such regulations for its management as he deems appropriate. This proclamation does not reserve water as a matter of Federal law. I direct the Secretary to address in the management plan the extent to which water is necessary for the proper care and management of the objects of this monument and the extent to which further action may be necessary pursuant to Federal or State law to assure the availability of water.
Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of this monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-first.
William J. Clinton
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 12:27 p.m., September 23, 1996]
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- Proclamation 9682, reduced the boundary of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, December 4, 2017