Last week I had a chance to visit Nine Mile Canyon for the first time in almost nine months.
What I found was a canyon teaming with big equipment, on inadequate roads, and few tourists.
Now I know it isn't tourist season, but when I have gone up in the fall before, there were always a few people looking at the Indian writings in the canyon. I only found three, besides my group.
The reason? Well it might have been the weather, although Wednesday was a lovely day in the canyon. Or it might have been just the fact it was the middle of the week. I'm afraid though, that it was the fact that the word has gotten out that the canyon is not what it used to be; a relatively unspoiled and quiet place to look at nature and cultural resources.
Instead I found roads in Nine Mile itself that were not too dusty, but very rough. In the side canyons I did find dust on the roads; choking, clouds of it. I saw a lot of traffic, mostly well development traffic. For the outsider, these could definitely be factors in not coming to visit the worlds longest art gallery.
I also saw what the dust is doing to the Indian writings. Writings that I could easily view a couple of years ago in some places are covered with a fine powder; some to the point of almost being totally obscured. I am not sure what this means. A good dust storm in the area could do the same thing, but is the day after day assault on these precious treasures taking it's toll on these writings, or is it just a temporary nuisance that will blow and wash away with time?
As a layman about these things, I certainly don't know. All I know is that viewing them is not the experience it once was.
Now before you jump to conclusions and think I am going to start blaming the gas exploration companies for these problems, think again. That is who most people want to blame.
And in terms of action day by day, they are the ones creating the dust.
But that is not where the fault lies. In my mind it lies with the federal government, in particular congress.
We have a need for energy. And the rights of companies to extract that energy from the ground is important to our economy, both nationally and locally.
We get revenue from these operations, both in wages and goods and in royalties that come back to the county.
However, the feds keep the bulk of the royalties that are paid up front. And that is where the problem lies.
The roads in and around the Nine Mile Canyon area need to be fixed.
No one I know wants a super highway through the area, but there should be roads that can handle the heavy traffic safely and cleanly.
For the next 20 to 30 years, the federal government will be pulling big bucks off the mineral leases in the area and the officials are the ones who should provide the money to engineer a solution to protect the canyon and it's surrounding areas.
The federal government shouldn't expect Carbon and Duchesne to do it. The counties have enough other impacts to deal with.
I know that federal bailouts always come with strings attached. But let's be realistic - something needs to be done soon.
We can't wait for two decades before action is taken or it might be too late for the resources in the canyon.
We need our congressional delegation to act on this. They need to twist some arms amongst their colleagues to get something done.