Federal Land Management: Authorized Uses in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-04-17.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      United States
GAO   General Accounting  Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Resources, Community,   and
      Economic Development    Division


      April 17, 1997

      The Honorable Frank Murkowski
      Chairman, Committee on Energy
       and Natural Resources
      United States Senate

      Subject:    Federal Land Manapement: Authorized Uses in the Grand
                  Staircase-Escalante National Monument

      Dear Mr. Chairman:

      On September 18, 1996, President Clinton designated about 1.7 million acres of
      federal land in southern Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escakmte National
      Monument. The monument, which covers an area larger than the State of
      Delaware, is administered by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land
      Management (BLM). Within this land area, mineral leases, grazing allotments,
      and other land-use authorizations remain valid despite the area’s designation as
      a national monument.’ To respond to your interest in the extent to which these
      authorized uses exist, we obtained information on the number of mineral leases,
      grazing permits, and other use authorizations for BLM-managed land within the

      In summary, we determined that there were 111 oil, gas, and coal leases, 70
      mining claims, 74 grazing allotments, 80 rights-of-way, and a variety of other
      land-use authorizations for this BLM-managed land as of April 1, 1997. The
      monument also contains 14 wilderness study areas that cover about 880,000
      acres and restrict the types and extent of activities that may occur within their

      Some of these authorized uses, such as mineral leases for oil, gas, or coal
      production, have finite terms and will expire unless they are suspended or
      developed. Grazing permits are subject to renewal, pursuant to existing
      laws and regulations. Some rights-of-way, such as highways and power
      lines, are permanent.

                                              GAOLRCED-97-117R Grand Staircase-Es&ante

boundaries. It also includes almost 190,000 acres of state and private lands, to
which BLM must allow access. Table 1 summarizes information about some of
these land-use authorizations.

Table 1: Tvpe and Number of Use Authorizations in Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument

                                         Number of        Acres covered (rounded
 Type of use authorization            authorizations           to the nearest 100)
  Oil and gas leases                             89                        137,700
  Coal leases                                    22                         59,100
  Mining claims                                  70          Not more than 2,400a
  Livestock grazing allotments                   74    Most of the 1.7 million acres
                                                        constituting the monument
  Rights-of-way                                   80                          7,800

“There are two types of mining claims. Lode claims are located along lodes or veins of
such minerals as quartz, gold, or silver and cannot exceed 20.7 acres (an area 1,500
feet in length and 600 feet in width). Deposits not located along lodes or veins are
called placer claims and are located within public land survey boundaries. They
cannot exceed 160 acres in area.

Of the 89 oil and gas leases, 6 have operating oil wells, which produce about
240,000 barrels of oil each year, according to a BLM official. Since the
monument’s designation, one lessee has applied to BLM for permission to drill
on the land covered by one of its federal leases within the monument. In
addition to the 89 leases, another lease-for 518 acres-is likely to be issued
because a bid was accepted before the monument’s designation.’ At the time of
the designation, 21 applications for new oil and gas leases were pending, but all
were rejected because further leasing is not allowed in the national monument.
Finally, according to a BLM official, an application for a combined hydrocarbon,
or tar sands, lease has been pending since 1982. It has never been approved
because of its proximity to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

 2BLM initially rejected the lease, but that decision was appealed to
 Interior’s Board of Land Appeals. According to a BLM official, the lease will
 be issued with an effective date of October 1, 1996.

 2                                         GAO/RCED-97-117R Grand Staircase-Escakmte
Of the 22 coal leases, none has been developed. Eighteen are suspended
because of ongoing reviews of environmental issues or potential designations of
wilderness areas. Of these 18 leases, 17-covering almost 35,000 acres-are held
by AMCA Coal Inc. (Andalex), which may exchange them for federal property
outside the monument.’ The other lease-covering over 18,000 acres-is held by
PacifiCorp, which had begun negotiations with BLM for a land exchange before
the monument was designated. The remaining four leases are being cancelled
for failure either to develop them or to pay the rental fees on them. These
leases are held by two lessees, one with three leases covering over 5,000 acres
and the other with one lease covering almost 1,000 acres. In addition to the 22
coal leases, two operators hold six prospecting permits for coal. These permits
can be converted into coal leases if commercial quantities of coal are found.

In addition to sites covered by oil, gas, and coal leases, the monument contains
other mineral sites. As of April 1, 1997, there were 70 claims for locatable
minerals, such as gold and silver. Of the 70 claims, 63 are lode claims, and 7
are placer claims. The monument also contains 11 mineral material sites,
covering over 560 acres. These sites produce such things as sand and gravel,
boulders, and building stone.

According to BLM officials and maps of livestock grazing allotments, 74
allotments cover most of the 1.7 million acres of the monument, although not
all acres within the iiuotments are suitable for livestock grazing. About 84
operators have permits for approximately 77,000 active animal unit months each
year4 Operators of some allotments have made improvements in the livestock
grazing areas (e.g., they have built fences or installed water tanks).

Rights-of-way are also present within the monument. A right-of-way grant
authorizes the use of public lands for such things as roads, power lines,
telephone lines, and irrigation ditches. The 80 rights-of-way in the monument
cover a total of about 7,800 acres. Also, as of April 1, 1997, 12 applications for
rights-of-way were pending approval.

Other land-use authorizations include special and commercial recreation
permits, which total about 50 annually. These permits are issued for the

3The President’s proclamation and BLM’s regulations provide that federal
land within the monument may be exchanged for land outside the
monument if such an exchange would protect the monumentts values.

4An animal unit month is defined as the amount of forage needed to sustain
one cow, one horse, or five sheep for 1 month.

3                                        GAO/RCED-97-117R Grand Staircase-Escaiante

activities of outfitters and guides and for other uses such as wilderness training
and the making of one or two films annually. BLM also issued about 430 wood-
collection permits in 1996 for the area covered by the monument. Finally, other
uses occur within the monument’s boundaries that do not require authorization,
including hunting, hiking, and other recreational activities.


We provided the Department of the Interior with a draft of this report for
review and comment. In written comments, Interior agreed with our
methodology and the data on the type and number of use authorizations.


We obtained BLM’s inventory lists of existing land-use authorizations for the
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from officials in the agency’s
Utah State Office in Salt Lake City. According to State Office officials, the
inventory lists were compiled by the officials responsible for managing the.
resources. At this office, we reviewed the case files for all mineral leases and
mineral claims on the lists BLM provided.

We also reviewed files and interviewed officials in BLM’s Kanab and Escalante
resource area offices, as the monument’s area is within both of these resource
areas. At the resource area offices, we reviewed all available case files for
livestock-grazing permits and allotments and special-use permits that BLM
identjfied for the monument. In addition, we reviewed all available case files
for rights-of-way that BLM identified for the monument. Most of these files
were located in BLM’s Cedar City District Office; the others were in the
resource area offices.

Although our review did not ensure that BLM’s inventories included all use
authorizations for the monument, we discussed with BLM officials the methods
of identifying existing use authorizations, and, where applicable, we reviewed
computer-generated reports used in the process. We also verified that selected
mineral leases and rights-of-way were identZied on master title plat maps and
that the information BLM provided was supported by information in the case

 We performed our review in February and March 1997 in accordance with
 generally accepted government auditing standards. As requested by your office,
 unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further
 distribution of this report for 7 days. At that time, we will make copies

 4                                       GAO/WED-97-117R   Grand Staircase-Es&ante
   available to the Secretary of the Interior and other interested parties. We will
   also make copies available to others upon request.

   If you or your staff have any questions, please call me on (202) 512-9775. Major
   contributors to this report were Jennifer Duncan, Susan Iott, Sue Naiberk, and
   Victor Rezendes.

   Sincerely yours,
              T . Id-
   Associate Director, Energy,
    Resources, and Science Issues


   5                                       GAOIRCED-97-117R   Grand Staircase-Escalante

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