Longtime HCN subscriber Ann Phillips finds herself drawn time and again back to a place that many experience as timeless: southeastern Utah. There, with one hand, she tries to record archaeological sites before they vanish; with the other, she works to prevent them from vanishing.
The educational consultant turned archaeologist came through Paonia recently with her daughter Sara, a river guide, on their way back from another foray to Utah. What she intended as a quick "hello" turned into a talk about the Cedar Mesa Project, a very redrock-roots group she helps run as part of the Canyon Country Volunteers. Ann, a resident of Boulder, Colo., says scores of people from all over the country get the group's newsletter and, when on Cedar Mesa, pass out "Leave no trace" brochures.
Cedar Mesa is near the towns of Bluff and Blanding, and in the neighborhood of Grand Gulch, Comb Wash, and Road and Fish canyons. Until recently, it was ignored by everyone except ranchers and cows. Today it is a center of attention. Several years ago, attorney Joe Feller (HCN, 1/24/94) sued to force the Bureau of Land Management to institute better grazing practices at Comb Wash, in part to protect archaeological sites. With cattle more or less under control, says Ann, the area is now endangered by tourists - and their dogs and ATVs and general ignorance of how to handle themselves among ruins.
The problem, she continues, is aggravated by technology - information about Cedar Mesa and other remote areas is on the Internet, Global Positioning Systems guide people to within a few feet of sites, and all-terrain vehicles get them there. Even without criminal intent, says Ann, pottery shards and other remnants of a past society dribble away, bit by bit.
In response to this deterioration, Ann says, her group works with the BLM on protection. The volunteers are preparing to fight technology with technology, creating an Internet site to tell people how they can keep sites at Cedar Mesa and other places intact.
For information about the Cedar Mesa Project, contact Ann Phillips, 211 Hawthorn Ave., Boulder, CO 80304 (303/449-5527).