WASHINGTON — If one Utah congressman has his way, the state will be home to a sixth national park.
U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart from Utah's second district reintroduced a proposal Wednesday to create Escalante Canyons Park and Preserve.
This is the second time Stewart has introduced legislation to turn the area into a national park, the first time coming in 2017. Utah currently has the third-most national parks in the U.S. behind California (9) and Alaska (8).
Parts of the area already make up the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Located in South-central Utah, the Escalante Canyons are home to waterfalls, arches and canyons.
According to a press release from Stewart's office, the Grand Staircase Escalante Enhancement Act would achieve the following if enacted:
- Creates Utah’s sixth national park – Escalante Canyons National Park
- The new park conserves this nationally important area while allowing access for hunting, fishing, trapping, and grazing.
- The park maps are still being finalized by the local communities, but the boundaries will fall within the Escalante Canyons Unit of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
- Transfers “Hole in the Rock Road” to the state of Utah in recognition the road’s historical significance as a pioneer trail for the early settlers sent to the area by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Creates a “Management Council” comprised of local officials to draft and oversee a management plan for the new monuments and National Park, giving local leaders a powerful voice and seat at the table.
- This bill codifies 3 separate and distinct national designations, Grand Staircase National Monument, Escalante Canyons National Park, and Kaiparowits National Monument.
In Dec. 2019, White Sands National Park in New Mexico became the most recent area to be designated as a national park.