The Nine Mile Canyon Deal

Posted by: Keith Kloor  :  Category: Archaeology

I’ve been following (and writing about) the battle over Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon since 2004. The place is so loaded with incredible rock art and other archaeological riches that it would be a national park if the landscape wasn’t a checkerboard of federal, state, county and private owners.

Then there’s the huge natural gas reserves that are the center of a long-running dispute between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Bill Barrett Corporation, a Denver-based oil & gas company, and a coalition of preservationists.  Well, earlier this week, all the parties reached a compromise agreement that allows the gas drilling to go forward with more stringent safeguards. Lots of people have been publicly crowing about this deal, but behind the scenes, there’s much grumbling and even outright accusations that the preservationists got rolled by the BLM and the gas company.

The mainstream press mostly centered on all the backslapping. No reporters have taken a critical look at the details of the agreement. So I read the document myself and then started making calls earlier this week. My previous reporting on Nine Mile Canyon has revealed some shady behavior on the part of BLM, so I was curious to learn if this new accord represented a true depature from Business as Usual. What I found out is that most of the preservationists who signed the accord did so pretty much holding their noses. Anyway, for more perspective, read the story I just wrote for Archaeology Magazine, which takes a hard look at the perceived failings of this highly vaunted deal.

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