-We're part of history, too," says Cathy Purves, Altamont environmental consultant in Lander. Making it clear that she's not speaking for the company, she continues, "I think it's presumptuous of us to say that history stops now, and nothing else can occur."
Comments like this raise Tom Bell's
hackles. "There is only one Oregon Trail," he says. "There are
pipelines for thousands of miles. To assume that at one point in
time this will also be historical is really stretching it."
The National Environmental Policy Act, with its
emphasis on data and facts, is not designed to settle disputes like
this. "How do you reflect people's feelings and history and
anxieties in an EIS?" asks Jim Roseberry of the
One law does reflect such concerns. The
National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to
consult with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation before
approving any project that affects a site listed on - or eligible
for - the National Register of Historic Places.
A small area at the summit of South Pass is already a National
Historic Landmark, and in June 1992, the Advisory Council signed an
agreement to mitigate Altamont's impact on the cultural resources
it would disrupt as it passed nearby.
feels that the swath cut by the pipeline's 100-foot right-of-way
will destroy the spell of the place. He and a group called Friends
of South Pass want the entire area listed as a National Rural
Historic Landscape, a relatively new category that can include
large pieces of real estate.
are purely honorary, however. While they may encourage local
governments to enact protective ordinances, they entail no other
legal protection. And places such as South Pass can easily fall
through their cracks.