Antiquities and Archaeology USA

Reprieve for rock art

Agreement reached to preserve carvings in Utah’s famed Nine Mile Canyon

LONDON. Efforts to preserve the ancient rock art of Utah’s famed Nine Mile Canyon received a much-needed boost on 5 January with the signing of an agreement to safeguard the 10,000 petroglyphs and pictographs that decorate the canyon.

Over the past few years, preservation organisations have become increasingly concerned by the proliferation of potentially harmful dust on the carvings caused by an upsurge in traffic from natural gas and oil exploration in the area. In 2008, the Bill Barrett Corporation (BBC), a Denver-based energy company which has drilled exploratory wells in the area since 2004, applied to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)—the US body which manages federal land—for leases to establish an 800-well development project. The proposal would increase traffic by a massive 416 per cent.

The agreement, signed by the BLM, the BBC, local governmental bodies and several preservation societies, outlines steps to protect the carvings should the proposal be approved. The pact calls for the BBC to fund cultural resource fieldwork and for the BLM to conduct studies on the effects of industrial dust on the carvings.

The day after the Utah agreement was signed, US interior secretary Ken Salazar announced stricter guidelines for companies seeking to drill on government land.

According to Salazar, the move will end the “candy store” mentality companies have towards public land: “The previous administration’s ‘anywhere, anyhow’ policy on oil and gas development ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape, and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry.”

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