The Bill Barrett Corporation makes a good case for expanding its natural gas drilling presence on the West Tavaputs Plateau in central Utah. But before the Denver-based company gets the go ahead it is important to make absolutely certain no harm will occur to precious archaeological treasures in Nine Mile Canyon.
The Bureau of Land Management has been assessing Barrett's plan to drill as many as 800 more natural gas wells in the area. At full production, it is estimated the operation could provide as much as 50 percent of Utah's demand for natural gas.
Trouble is trucks, lots of them, would be going up and down Nine Mile Canyon to access the wells! And that has raised questions about the impact their presence would have on the ancient rock art that is prolific in the canyon.
The national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation recently stepped into the permitting process to make sure the ancient rock art won't be adversely impacted by the drilling operation. All parties should welcome this additional oversight.
The rock art in Nine Mile Canyon is indeed a remarkable cultural treasure. Final approval for Bill Barrett's project must only be given once it is fully and factually determined the archaeological sites will not be irreversibly damaged.