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Nonprofit group faults rush to develop energy on federal land
DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- The federal government's rush to develop energy on millions of acres of federal land in the West has left vast natural and cultural resources to languish, the National Trust for Historic Preservation said.
Archaeological sites including Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which contains more than 6,000 recorded artifacts, and Utah's Nine Mile Canyon, dubbed the longest art gallery in the world, with more than 10,000 American Indian petroglyphs, lie undocumented and unprotected, said Richard Moe, head of the National Trust.
Only 17 million acres of the 262 million acres that the Bureau of Land Management oversees in 12 Western states have been surveyed to identify cultural resources, the preservation group said in report released Tuesday.
"There are people all over the West who love these sites and are working hard to protect them," Moe told The Associated Press last week. "But you can't protect them if you don't know where they are."
The report says the bureau doesn't have enough money or staff to survey much of its land or adequately protect resources from off-road vehicles and other threats. At the 164,000-acre Canyons of the Ancients in southwestern Colorado, for example, only one ranger is in charge of law enforcement, the report said.
Further sapping the bureau is a federal mandate to speed up approval of energy development on public lands, the report said. Funds are being siphoned to assess and protect sites where companies and ranchers want to mine, graze livestock, or drill oil and gas, report author Destry Jarvis said.
Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Celia Boddington said the agency's finances are more complex than the report portrays, and employees funded by one program often help with others, including cultural preservation.
She also disputed that energy development is overwhelming the agency's other duties.
"We are required by law to manage for multiple uses of the land," Boddington said. "In cases where we permit energy development, that's a tiny proportion of public lands."
The private, nonprofit National Trust declared the entire National Landscape Conservation System to be endangered. The conservation system covers about 26 million acres of bureau land and includes national monuments, conservation areas, and historic and scenic trails.