Most people visit
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
to enjoy the outstanding and unique scenery—the hoodoos of Devils Garden, the multicolored cliffs of the Grand Staircase, or the serpentine, redrock canyons. But for many decades before the region became a tourist attraction ranchers had exploited the area as livestock pasture.
The 1996 proclamation that established the monument clearly stated that livestock grazing would continue: “Nothing in this proclamation shall bedeemed to affect existing permits or leases for, or levels of, livestock grazing on Federal lands within the monument; existing grazing uses shall continue to be governed by applicable laws and regulations other than this proclamation.”
Yet, this is a landscape that is particularly unsuited to the presence of cattle. They trample
biological soil crusts
(living soil crusts dominated by bacteria, lichens, mosses, and algae), facilitate erosion, rub off prehistoric rock art, knock over ancient ruins, break down streambanks, increase the spread of noxious and toxic plants, foul springs and creeks, and compete directly with wildlife for scant food.
During my visit in mid-September 2001 I photographed some of these impacts. My photographs tell a story you won’t find in the monument’s visitor guide.