A Victory for Nine Mile Canyon’s Rock Art

Posted on: January 23rd, 2009 by Jason Clement

Art should be revered, which is why we all know the unspoken rules when it comes to museums.

No loud talking because you should be thinking. Don't get too close because you'll probably get beeped at. No refreshments because Dali wouldn't approve of slurping. And of course, keep your hands to yourself because, well, you know how it goes: you break it, you...

But what about those masterpieces that are found in our nation's backyard rather than in its National Gallery? How do we protect relics from the past that - rather than gum chewing and flash photography - face growing threats from industrial development and the dust-stirring truck traffic that it creates?

Pictured above, Utah's Nine Mile Canyon and the region surrounding it contains the nation's greatest density of ancient rock art, with tens of thousands of prehistoric images already documented and many more yet to be discovered. Unfortunately, due to ongoing oil and gas lease sales, the fate of these irreplaceable cultural resources was largely uncertain in the final months of 2008.

However, with the new year has come a new victory for what is also known as the world's longest art gallery.

On January 17, 2009, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the U.S. District Court granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from moving forward with leases on more than 110,000 acres of federal land in Utah, including land near Nine Mile Canyon. The decision comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in December 2008 by a coalition of conservation and preservation organizations, which includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society, and Earthjustice.

In the ruling, Judge Urbina found that the conservation groups "have shown a likelihood of success on the merits" and that the "'development of domestic energy resources' … is far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment." The merits of the case will be heard later in 2009. Until that time, BLM is prohibited from cashing the checks issued for the contested acres of Utah.

As is often the case in preservation, protecting Nine Mile Canyon is an ongoing project. We invite you to stay tuned over the coming months as we continue to be a watchful eye and a strong voice for the region's prehistoric masterpieces. And in the mean time, check out our previous blog posts on Nine Mile Canyon to read more about this story as it developed, and visit PreservationNation for additional resources and information.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

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