Despite the best efforts of conservationists, Nine Mile Canyon may be in the midst of a terrible transformation. The backcountry byway that intertwines with an acclaimed prehistoric rock art collection is carrying some heavy traffic and much more may be on the way as canyon energy resources are exploited.
Promises to prevent or mitigate threats to canyon rock art have not proved equal to the task and dust control efforts have not prevented petroglyphs in some sections from being obscured. Whether or not the dust will cause premature rock art aging is unknown, but that unwelcome experiment is now in progress. These issues were foreseen clearly during planning and assurances given that irreplaceable cultural resources could and would be protected. What happens when plans fail and promises are not kept?
Nine Mile Canyon and its archaeological resources have a direct economic value. People will pay to see this rock art - I did. The expenses for four adults traveling from Phoenix, Ariz., to Price, Utah, for the primary purpose of visiting Nine Mile Canyon are tabulated below. Because we were able to stay with friends for part of the visit and cashed in some mileage credit for a free airline ticket, we were able to keep the total costs low. To visit the canyon we traveled to Salt Lake City by air, rented a mid-size car for four days and booked hotel rooms in Price.
During our time in Price, we toured the College of Eastern Utah museum, ate in local restaurants and purchased gas as well as books and souvenirs. The day we visited the canyon, July 15, 2005, I noticed that four parties had preceded us to the Rasmussen cave area and signed the Bureau of Land Management visitor log and those people all presumably spent some money in Price area as well. While all the benefits from gas production will be confined to our generation, properly safeguarded, Nine Mile Canyon rock art could draw visitors and their money for a thousand years.
There must be value in that.