BLM snatches up small parcels near Utah's Grand Staircase NM

Posted: Jan 31, 2013

Written by

BRIAN MAFFLY, Salt Lake Tribune/GW
Grand Staircase-Escalante NM

The Bureau of Land Management will take control of eight small parcels of privately owned land in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in an effort to keep them from being drawn into commercial development.

The 21 acres of land are owned by conservation group Grand Canyon Trust. The Flagstaff, Ariz.-based trust started to buy the parcels when others proposed developing tourist-oriented businesses, such as restaurants and gift shops, on them.

BLM is using $440,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to complete the transaction.

The deal marks the first time the federal government has bought a significant amount of private land within the monument. Previously, money from LWCF was used for much smaller acquisitions. Two other 40-acre parcels were donated to the government, said Hugh Wolfe, the monument's real estate specialist.

The deal has met opposition from Utah's Garfield County, which encompasses much of Grand Staircase-Escalante and where only 3 percent of the land is privately owned. Chairwoman Clare Ramsay said the county does not want further government ownership in the region.

"Every bit we lose, that will cost us in property taxes," she said. "We can't afford to lose any more."

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