Note: On December 4, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to draw new boundary lines for the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. The proposal introduces three new national monuments in this area named the Grand Staircase Unit, Kaiparowits Unit, and Escalante Canyons Unit. The existing Canyons of the Escalante area covers significantly more territory than the new Escalante Canyons Unit, Escalante Canyons National Monument, or whatever it ends up being named.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the federal agency that manages America's public landsThe huge Grand Staircase, an immense geologic formation, extends from the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona to the top riser of Bryce Canyon National Park on the northwest and the Aquarius Plateau and Boulder Mountain on the northeast, both in Utah. The original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a portion of the Grand Staircase that is inside Utah plus a whole lot more - from the towns of Big Water, Glendale and Kanab, Utah, on the southwest, to Capitol Reef National Park on the northeast. There are three main regions in the Monument: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante - which are administered by the BLM as part of the National Landscape Conservation System - a 27-million-acre (110,000 km2) collection of lands in 887 federally designated areas. At 1.9 million acres, the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument is by far the largest of these lands - slightly larger in area than the state of Delaware.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, entirely inside Utah, covers a small area of the northeastern corner of the Grand Staircase, missing most of the geologic staircase, and including a huge chunk of mineral-rich Southern Utah, including School and Institutional Trust Lands granted by Congress (1896), and county roads. Cities and state parks are excluded from the Mounument, completely surrounded by the Monument.
Particular to the controversy is the seizure of School and Institutional Trust Lands granted in 1896, and protected local roads covered by R.S.2477. Dirt roads in the Monument are highly disputed, with Kane County officials placing Kane County signs on roads they claim and occasionally applying bulldozers to grade claimed roads, while the BLM tries to exert control over the same roads. Resolution of this dispute is unlikely in the immediate future. Select Controversy on the menu for the article at Wikipedia that has a lot more information. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was declared in September 1996 at the height of the 1996 presidential election campaign by President Bill Clinton, and was controversial from the moment of creation. The declaration ceremony was held at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, not in the state of Utah. The Utah congressional delegation and state governor were notified only 24 hours in advance. Bill Clinton created it by presidential decree, partially in retribution to Utah for coming in third behind H. Ross Perot in the 1992 election, and partially to gain ground in swing-state Arizona (he won Arizona by 2.2%). The controversy surrounding its creation continues, and its resolution is not likely in the foreseeable future.
Monument Maps: the Original BLM map comes from the BLM's Monument brochure that no longer exists; the New BLM map is an overlay of the new designation on top of the old map; the Changes overlay is a simple overlay of the new over the old designation.
Controversy opens an article at Wikipedia on the creation of the Monument. Grand Staircase opens an article on the geologic formation.
Menu options in Scenic Color Country including photos in the Monument are the Cockscomb, Scenic Byway 12, Calf Creek Canyon, the Burr Trail, and Canyons of the Escalante. GSENM Geology is a huge PDF document from the Utah Geological Association with an in-depth discussion of the geology of the National Monument (43 pages, on our server - may take a few seconds).