Earlier today, The Washington Post and The Salt Lake Tribune published stories outlining the Bureau of Land Management's December plans to sell oil and gas leases in areas of Utah known to contain some of the nation's most significant cultural and natural resources, including the Nine Mile Canyon region. Unfortunately, this decision represents the latest in a series of moves by BLM to expedite oil and gas leasing and development near Nine Mile Canyon, an area with the highest concentration of rock art sites in the United States that is often referred to as the "world's longest art gallery." In recent years, truck traffic associated with BLM-approved natural gas projects near the Canyon has caused harmful levels of dust and chemicals to settle on the rock art sites. Thus far, BLM has refused to study in detail alternative access routes that would avoid the need for natural gas trucks to use Nine Mile Canyon, even though a September 2008 study funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation shows that these alternative routes are feasible.
Additionally, we have also learned that BLM plans to issue the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the West Tavaputs Natural Gas Full Field Development Plan early next week (West Tavaputs Plateau is the area within Nine Mile Canyon where most natural gas extraction is now occurring). If the BLM's final EIS approves the energy companies' proposals, truck traffic in Nine Mile Canyon could increase by an additional 500 percent.
Once you have digested Tuesday's election results, check back in with PreservationNation for more information on the lease sale and Final EIS and learn about how you can let BLM know of your concerns for Nine Mile Canyon. In the meantime, here's a video shot back in April, showing the damage done to the canyon's prehistoric rock art by truck traffic.
- Bureau Proposes Opening Up Utah Wilderness to Drilling, The Washington Post, October 31, 2008
- Bush administration pushing hard to open Utah lands to energy development, The Salt Lake Tribune, October 31, 2008
-- Ti Hays & Virgil Mc Dill
Ti Hays is the Public Lands Counsel and Virgil McDill is the communications manager at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.