Two federal agencies should act quickly to give a House committee documents that detail the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Failure to disclose the information does nobody any good and could inflame an already touchy situation.

The House Resources Committee has asked the Department of Interior and the White House's Council on Environmental Quality for documents that contain some answers to who promoted formation of the monument and what their reasons were.The committee is not formally investigating the background of how the monument came to be; members say they want the information to help them begin the process of creating a management plan for the monument. But the federal agencies are being overprotective of the documents - even de-fen-sive.

Utahns including Rep. Jim Hansen, who directs the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, rightfully feel they deserve to know more about discussions leading up to the designation and the motivations behind it.

President Clinton only briefly consulted with Utah's governor and members of Congress before his announcement of the monument and did not include them in the planning or the decision. In fact, they had been led to believe the designation was not imminent and were taken by surprise when it happened.

Now Utah's congressional delegation is working to make sure the president keeps his promises to maintain multiple uses of the land and to compensate the state for school trust lands included in the monument's boundaries.

Some Republican lawmakers question the president's justification in invoking the Antiquities Act to protect 1.7 million acres of Utah land.

The White House and federal agencies owe Utahns and members of Congress some answers. Providing documents and other information could help put some speculation to rest, and the Clinton administration should welcome that.

If the documents indicate the president and others had intentions that were not based on protecting environmentally fragile and valuable land, the American people and their representatives have a right to know that.

Withholding the documents accomplishes little except to encourage further bad feelings and speculation.