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02/01/2013

Protecting our Most Endangered Places

Stretching along a back country byway in eastern Utah lies one of the more impressive monuments to American history anywhere in the country. It’s an internationally-known rock art goldmine called Nine Mile Canyon.  This prehistoric canyon extends over 40 miles in Duchesne and Carbon counties, Utah.  There are more ancient petroglyphs here than anywhere else in the country.  And in 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) added this Nine Mile Canyon to its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Nine Mile
photo courtesy of Wayne Hoskisson

Indeed, Nine Mile Canyon is under threat from development and dirty energy.  Already, fossil fuel companies are eyeing the site - and their stewardship hasn’t been impressive. In November 2012, a natural gas compression station in the canyon owned by Bill Barrett Corporation exploded and injured two people.  Other oil and gas operations also threaten the delicate petroglyphs with their erosive dust and dangerous drilling activity.

The Sierra Club worked alongside the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) to maintain Nine Mile Canyon as a historical site for future generations. Lists like America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places help shed light on and ultimately protect places like Nine Mile Canyon.  In January 2009, both groups filed a formal complaint with the Bureau of Land Management, asking for more protections for Nine Mile Canyon against industrial damage.  Shortly afterwards, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew the oil and gas lease that contained 77 parcels of land in and around Nine Mile.

But the threats don’t stop there. More natural gas companies are hoping to get their drills into this precious historic habitat. Gasco - a natural gas company - has a plan to drill 1,300 new wells in the region that could cause real damage to an irreplacable site. The Sierra Club is fighting to stop the exploitation of this one-of-a-kind piece of American history, so that its generations-old art can be enjoyed by generations to come.

Together, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Sierra Club are defending our nation’s history through this cultural landmark. Its critical to speak up now to continue to protect places like Nine Mile Canyon and other locations throughout the country that are under attack.  Nominate your historic endangered place today!  Once these special places are gone, we can never get them back.

Written by Sierra Club Media Team intern, Kristen Elmore

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