Durango Telegraph - An endangered monument
An endangered monument

Industrial byproducts are by no means the only threat to Canyons of the Ancients. Off-highway vehicles, bandit trails, vandals, and oil and gas development are continuing to send shockwaves through the nearby national monument.

Since 2003, dozens of Great Old Broads have taken steps to aid the financially beleaguered monument. A volunteer effort, spearheaded by the Durango-based Great Old Broads for Wilderness, has monitored abuses in the Canyons of the Ancients in the hope of helping land managers get the upper hand.

Ronni Egan, executive director of Great Old Broads, noted that recreation actually poses one of the biggest dangers to the fragile monument. “There’s been a proliferation of user-made trails, horse trails, mountain bike trails and people generally going places where they shouldn’t because of the sensitive nature of the area,” she said.

Industry is also having its way with the Canyons of the Ancients, according to Egan. Livestock grazing continues to be problematic in some areas. More significantly, major oil and gas exploration and extraction have moved into the culturally rich area.

“There is a big spread of oil and gas development, which seems to be a real oxymoron in the Canyons of the Ancients,” Egan said. “I know we need the fuel, but it seems really ironic to be looking for it in a place we’re trying to protect for its archeological qualities.”

With these things in mind, Egan questioned whether the monument’s multiple-use philosophy is the best fit, adding that a lack of funding from Washington, D.C., only exacerbates the problems.

“Probably the most current threat is that there isn’t going to be any space in the budget to actually manage the Canyons of the Ancients correctly,” Egan concluded.

– Will Sands

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