Court Protects Utah's Fragile Nine Mile Canyon from Harmful Energy Development

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2004) - A federal district judge today agreed with environmental groups that an energy company must safeguard cultural and wilderness resources when it conducts seismic exploration activities in eastern Utah's Nine Mile Canyon region. Judge Emmet Sullivan required Denver-based Bill Barrett Corporation to conduct more extensive surveys of cultural resources, to ensure that the "thumper trucks" used for seismic testing will not produce vibrations that will harm cultural artifacts, and to avoid exploring for natural gas in wilderness areas. These restrictions were put in place to prevent damage until the judge makes a final ruling in the case in July.

"This is a step in the right direction to protect irreplaceable cultural resources from the Bush administration's ill-conceived energy plans," said Stephen Bloch, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

The project in question is planned for a remote area of eastern Utah known as the "Nine Mile Canyon" region -- an area nationally renowned for its rich cultural resources. The State of Utah describes the area as an "outdoor museum." (Click here for details.) The area has the highest concentration of rock art in the country, according to the Bureau of Land Management. (Click here for details.) The lawsuit was filed last month by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, and the Utah Rock Art Research Association. (For details on the suit, click here.)

"We're pleased the court prevented senseless destruction that will benefit no one except a powerful energy company," said NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino.

In the meantime, BLM is currently considering another proposal by Bill Barrett Corporation to drill up to 38 wells in the same area, as well as lay new pipelines and work on natural gas compressor stations. All of these activities, viewed piecemeal (as the BLM is doing) are radically changing the nature of the landscape from a scenic backcountry way into an industrial complex.

For more information on today's court victory, contact NRDC's Sharon Buccino at 202-289-2397 or SUWA's Stephen Bloch at 801-971-4198.