Climate + Energy

Protecting Bryce Canyon National Park From Coal Destruction in Utah

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Just 8 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park, one of America’s most unique landscapes, is the Alton Coal Mine in Kane County, Utah.

This is an offensively terrible location for an enormous strip-mine. Smack between Bryce and Zion National Park, which play host seven million annual visitors, combined, the mine is looking to expand by 3,600 acres. The Trump administration recently gave its support to the dirty coal mine, despite its proximity to such important natural areas.

If approved, the expansion would yield 2 million tons of coal per year, employing 100 miners and an additional 60 truckers. The previous production at Alton only called for about 25 miners, and so the Trump Administration is touting the expansion as an economic driver for the region (this is, of course, ignoring the allegations that Alton Coal owes the county over half a million dollars in unpaid taxes).

However, as Guardians and others argued in a letter last week, these numbers only tell half the story, and the reality is that Trump’s scheme could actually cost the local economy in the area dearly.

According to the National Park Service, Bryce supported 3,120 jobs last year and brought in over $200 million in impacts to the local economy – huge compared to the small number of workers employed by Alton Coal mine! But unfortunately for Bryce, if this coal mine expands any further, it could drive away both visitors and their money. In national parks across the country, studies have shown that would-be visitors avoid areas with air pollution. In addition to nasty pollution, if this lease is approved, the road that connects Zion to Bryce would see a huge rise in coal truck traffic. A dramatic increase in truck traffic and mining activity would certainly deter visitors from enjoying the parks.

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If approved, coal trucks would run 24 hours a day, six days a week from the mine. Bryce and Zion are connected by a small road which tourists use to travel in between parks and would also be used to shoulder the constant truck traffic under this plan.

Bryce has the darkest nighttime sky of any place in the lower 48 states. But according to the National Park Service, lights from mining will reduce the beautiful night sky visibility, and in turn, reduce the number of star-watchers that come to the park each year. The boundless vistas, clean air, natural quiet and highly-visible starry night skies are fundamental to visitors at Bryce – all of which are on the chopping block with this proposal.

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Hoodoos are rock spires that form due to erosion. While hoodoos are scattered throughout the Colorado Plateau region, nowhere in the world are they as abundant as in the northern section of Bryce Canyon National Park, as seen above.

The Alton expansion is a bad deal for Utah and for the millions of visitors who come to experience the beauty of these natural areas. While Trump may insist on the mythical economic boost that supposedly comes from digging up unspoiled areas for fossil fuels, the facts tell a different story completely. This isn’t a solution for local workers and their families, this is just another move to help out Trump’s cronies – the wealthy fossil fuel executives.

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