The Trump administration is considering a proposal to sell 1,600 acres of land in Southern Utah that used to be protected as part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The acreage in question lost federal protection when President Trump rolled back the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments late last year.
The Washington Post reports the 1,600 acres that could be sold are adjacent to Rep. Mike Noel’s property that was originally within the boundaries of Grand Staircase, but was excluded when Trump reduced the size of the monument.
Noel’s 40-acre property sat within the original boundaries that were drawn when President Bill Clinton designated the national monument in 1996. His property was left outside Grand Staircase’s boundary when the Trump administration cut its 1.9 million acres in half. At the request of public officials in Utah, the administration also cut the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears by 85 percent.
Noel, a Republican state lawmaker, claimed not to know of the proposal to dispose of federal land next to his own but called it “interesting,” according to a report by HuffPost, which first reported on the draft plan. He said the amount of acreage that might go up for sale — 1,600 acres — seemed low. Once a career employee at the Bureau of Land Management, Noel left the federal government after Grand Staircase’s designation and fiercely fought it.
The Post also reports that the plan to sell the formerly protected land directly contradicts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s testimony at his confirmation hearing where he said he was “absolutely against” the sale of public land.