Ever since President Trump slashed the size of two national monuments in Utah two years ago, the question has been how formerly protected public lands would be managed, and Salt Lake City correspondent Brady McCombs was first to break the news that the government would allow mining, drilling, grazing and recreation on lands around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that had been off limits.
Impressed by AP's fairness in coverage of the ongoing debate about managing public lands in the West, the Bureau of Land Management reached out to McCombs to share embargoed materials and the first-ever interview by the region’s acting director ahead of the plan’s release. The APNewsBreak revealed that not only would the formerly protected lands be made available to a wide variety of uses but that those activities could have an adverse effect on the monument that is home to dramatic formations and vistas and is prime territory for paleontologists because of its rich collection of dinosaur fossils. McCombs’s story went on to explain how some activities such as fossil collection and ATV trails would be more restricted within the park than previously planned, and he quoted the BLM boss who made the case that the lands outside the monument would still be managed to avoid a “free for all.” Environmentalists and scientists were quick with criticism that McCombs included in updates after the embargo had lifted. Many outlets were left trying to match the AP story, which received wide play and strong social engagement, particularly in the West.