A Past Worth Preserving

A Past Worth Preserving – New York Times By RICHARD MOE, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon, known as the world’s longest art gallery because it contains more than 10,000 petroglyphs, could soon be home to nearly 2,000 oil and gas wells. With them will come hundreds of miles of pipeline, compressor stations, new roads and hundreds of heavy trucks whose vibrations and dust can cause irreversible damage to ancient rock art.

Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona, abundant in archeological sites, is attracting growing numbers of visitors from nearby Phoenix seeking recreation, too many of them unfortunately in off-road vehicles. From 2000 to 2004, their number increased fivefold. In spite of the growth in visitors, which increases the threat of looting and vandalism, there is still only one ranger to protect the monument.

Similarly affected by these vehicles is Gold Butte, near Las Vegas. A recent study by volunteers monitoring vandalism at Gold Butte showed a 366 percent increase in major damage to cultural sites in the area from 2004 to 2005, including numerous incidents of graffiti and bullet holes in petroglyph panels. The same sad story is too familiar elsewhere.

More federal financing is needed to protect these places and to survey archeological sites. Only about 6 percent of Bureau of Land Management lands have been surveyed. And we can’t protect these sites if we don’t know where they are. While much of this land is generating huge oil and gas revenue, some reasonable share of that revenue should be returned to care for these sites.


About mjh

Mark Justice Hinton lives in New Mexico and loves the Four Corners region, as well as the Rocky Mountains. Write him at chaco@mjhinton.com.
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