ROCK ART IN UTAH THREATENED BY GAS DRILLING
Eastern Utah's Nine Mile Canyon holds more than 10,000 known American Indian rock-art images. But they may be no match for 800 gas wells. A Denver-based energy company's proposal to drill at least that many wells on the West Tavaputs Plateau threatens the thousand-year-old Anasazi ruins, where dust and chemicals are already corroding peerless rock art.
The Bill Barrett Corp. wants to drill some of those wells in wilderness study areas and critical habitat for deer, elk and sage grouse, as well as operate year-round instead of laying off for the winter as has been the tradition to accommodate wildlife needs.
Conservationists say the company's full-field development of the Stone Cabin and Peters Point gas fields would guarantee the end of Nine Mile Canyon as it has been for millennia. "This project, if approved, if implemented, will be the death blow for Nine Mile Canyon, for the cultural sites there and for the wilderness-quality areas there," said Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance attorney Steve Bloch.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has issued a draft environmental impact study of Bill Barrett's development plan, and acknowledges the potential harm to wildlife, air quality and scenery. But it was the ongoing and potential harm to archaeological treasures that prompted most public concern in the early days of environmental analyses. Responding to the outcry, the BLM crafted an alternative specifically addressing industrial traffic in the canyon.
Nine Mile Canyon supposedly is protected under the federal Antiquities Act and already among fewer than 70 comparable wonders listed on the BLM's National Backcountry Byway System. But Bill Barrett holds the leases, and those leases come with rights to explore
and develop a minimum of one well for each parcel, BLM officials said. The company estimates the project would yield about 1 trillion cubic feet of gas during more than three decades of drilling, when big rigs would make hundreds of trips every week for more than three decades up and down the narrow canyon road. The agency already knows that one of the biggest problems is dust and the chemicals used to tamp it down.
Check out the mission statement of the coalition:
The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition exists to preserve and protect Nine Mile Canyon - in partnership with land holders; user groups; federal, state, and local agencies; and Native American organizations. To that end, the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition will foster educational and interpretive programs which include, but are not limited to: assisting in the coordination of canyon interests; promoting programs of scientific research in the canyon; helping with inventory of cultural and natural resources; raising funds - from earnings or gifts - for research, education, interpretive or preservation programs as such funds become available.
PO Box 402
Price, Utah 84501
Nine Mile Canyon Coalition Board Chair