In June 2009, some 150 armed federal agents stormed through Blanding, Utah, confiscating truckloads of American Indian artifacts and arresting 17 residents for allegedly trafficking in them.
This January, Blanding received another blow when state lawmakers began considering whether to close Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum -- even as it is about to swell with contraband from the raids. The museum holds the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan artifacts in the Four Corners and is an economic boon to the community; in 2009, it drew nearly 12,000 visitors.
The cash-strapped state government targeted Edge of the Cedars and four other parks because they don't turn a profit. But Cedars was created for a different purpose, says Tim Smith, the state parks' southeast region manager: "People were sick and tired of the artifacts coming out of that area heading to museums all over the country." The museum could stay open, but regardless, it will probably face cuts to its already small staff. State Rep. Christine Watkins, who represents Blanding, worries for the town: "We're (already) at the point where we're really struggling."