NINE MILE CANYON IN UTAH -- FABULOUS ROCK ART -- MAY FINALLY BE PROTECTED
An agreement signed is aimed at safeguarding thousands of prehistoric American Indian drawings and carvings from truckers' dust in a famed Utah canyon (USA) near where a Colorado company wants to dramatically increase energy development. The pact signed at the Utah Capitol is the first major attempt to address concerns over dust in Nine Mile Canyon, whose miles of decorated walls are sometimes called the world's longest art gallery.
The canyon has been the focus of intense debate for several years after Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp. proposed developing 800 natural gas wells on West Tavaputs Plateau, which sits above Nine Mile Canyon.
The Bureau of Land Management has not made a final decision on Bill Barrett's proposal. The primary concern has been concern over dust from the unpaved road being kicked up by an increasing number of trucks ferrying equipment and workers. Some worry the dust could hurt the ancient art panels depicting bighorn sheep, owls, a two-headed snake, spear-wielding hunters and warriors engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
The agreement is meant to lay out protections for the rock art if Bill Barrett's proposal is approved. It was signed by BLM officials, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Bill Barrett Corp., as well as environmental and archaeological groups and advocates for the 78-mile-long canyon. The deal, affecting some 233 square miles, including the canyon and the West Tavaputs Plateau, includes a list of tasks such as more dust suppression and studies to determine if the rock art is being harmed.
Pam Miller, chair of the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, said she's happy to see efforts to tamp down dust and study its potentially adverse effects. Whether the BLM cracks down when problems crop up will be something her group will be watching for. "We haven't always been listened to before when we've reported problems," Miller said. "But we're hopeful. We sincerely hopes it's going to work."