In early December, Hovenweep National Monument, in the remote southeast corner of Utah, narrowly escaped an attempt to lease nearby land for oil and gas drilling.
monument’s 400-acre Square Tower unit was created in 1923 to
protect the remains of an almost 800-year-old Anasazi settlement,
where as many as 500 people once lived. From there, visitors can
look south, across Bureau of Land Management and private land, and
see the San Juan Basin, Ute Mountain, and Shiprock in New
"You have a pretty big, expansive view there,"
says Corky Hays, the monument’s superintendent. "To me,
it’s very evocative of what it was like when these sites were
In 2000, the BLM acquired a 580-acre
parcel just a quarter-mile south of the monument, specifically to
protect that view and the solitude for which Hovenweep is known.
But the agency never amended its resource management plan to
protect the parcel, and earlier this year an oil and gas company
nominated the land, along with a second, 640-acre private parcel
adjacent to it, for leasing.
The National Park Service,
which manages the monument, formally protested to the BLM on Nov.
26. On Dec. 7, three days before the planned lease sale, the BLM
decided to remove the two parcels from the list. "We took the
position that we need to rethink it," says Kent Hoffman, the
BLM’s deputy Utah state director for lands and minerals. The
BLM is beginning the process of updating its entire Monticello
resource management plan, which will provide an opportunity for
more protection for the Hovenweep area. The revised plan could be
available for public comment as early as fall 2005.