FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, July 7, 2017

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Salt Lake City, UT – With the public comment period deadline quickly approaching, business owners in the Grand Staircase region are concerned about the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and how their businesses will be affected.

Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to meet with business owners and monument advocates during his listening tour of the region in May, although numerous efforts were made to connect with him. His listening tour audience – primarily composed of monument opponents, including Rep. Mike Noel and county commissioners – told a story of economic downturn in the region as result of the monument. This narrative runs counter to what most business owners in the region claim.

Those who lived in the area prior to the designation can speak to the great lengths to which they went to gain the designation. 21 years later, those in the area – with thriving restaurants, lodges, outfitting companies, and construction companies – can speak of the economic benefits the monument has brought, as well as the community that has developed as a result.

The Alliance for a Better Utah, a good-government group focused on bringing balance to Utah politics, recently released a video highlighting discussions with business owners in the Grand Staircase area.

“Utah’s leaders and the county commissioners in the Grand Staircase region paint a gloomy economic picture, yet conveniently fail to acknowledge the growth of new industries and new people to the region,” said Madison Hayes, Better Utah’s Content Manager, who traveled to the region to interview business owners. “Secretary Zinke heard a lopsided perspective during his visit to the region. Therefore it seemed necessary to hear from monument proponents themselves, whose voices were ignored during the listening tour.”

In the video, business owners speak of the designation process and the economic growth that resulted. They express their disappointment in Secretary Zinke’s failure to meet with local business owners in favor of those advocating for the monument’s reduction. Beyond losing economic opportunities, business owners fear the ultimate loss will be the benefits one gains from experiencing the land in its current state – and urge people to submit their comments before the July 10th deadline.

“It is crucial Zinke sees the entire picture of the region before making potentially devastating recommendations for a reduction,” continued Hayes. “Should a monument reduction occur, these business owners will be the first to feel the repercussions.”

Business owners interviewed for the video include:

Mark Austin – Owner of Entrada Escalante Lodge and Austin-Witzdam Builders (Escalante, Utah)

Scott Berry – Co-Owner of Boulder Mountain Lodge (Boulder, Utah)

Ty Markham – Owner of Torrey Schoolhouse B&B (Torrey, Utah)

Blake Spalding – Owner of Hell’s Backbone Grill (Boulder, Utah)

Dana Waggoner – Owner of Escalante Outfitters (Escalante, Utah)

The video can be found on Better Utah’s Facebook page. Better Utah supports the sentiment of these business owners and can assist in setting up interviews with those in the video.


About the Alliance for a Better Utah:

Alliance for a Better Utah is a good government advocacy and watchdog organization based in Salt Lake City. The organization works to improve the lives of all Utahns by ensuring balance, transparency, and accountability in Utah politics, policy, and government. More information at

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