"Beyond the archaeological story”
November 2, Saturday 2013
Bluff Community Center - Bluff, UT Come and join friends known and soon to know as we laugh, listen, talk, see, sing, dance and dine our collective experience.REGISTRATION IS FREE: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW!
Schedule of Events
12:00 Doors Open
1:00 Welcome - Mark Meloy, Executive Director FCM
1:15–2:30 Keynote: “The Disappearances” with Scott Thybony
Three tales of missing persons in this same region at the same time:
Ruess, Lucy Garrett, Dan Thrapp Introduction of Keynote by Ed Dobson, FCM Board
2:45–4:00 NEMO: a film about Everett Ruess by Corey Robinson
Introduction & Discussion by Vaughn Hadenfeldt, FCM board
4:15–5:45 Stories from the Mesa
We’ve gathered a fine group of Cedar Mesa luminaries who’ve
dusted off their memory cards to share “the way we were!”
* Bill Lipe - retired & legendary professor of archaeology
* Fred Blackburn - former ranger, “Cowboys & Cave Dwellers”
* Lynell Schalk - former law enforcement ranger
* Rigby Wright - former San Juan County sheriff
* Winston Hurst - archaeologist, 40 years in the area Introduction by Bill Lipe, FCM board
5:45 – 6:00 Closing Remarks by Mark Meloy
6:00 – 7:30 Chili Feed/Pot Luck & Silent Auction Frenzy
8:00 Silent Auction closes
8:00 – 10:00 Music at the NADA Bar with Sand Sheff & Sunni
There is little doubt that we who live or spend vacation time in San Juan County have it good. The opportunities for outdoor recreation are immense and diverse. There are so many places to hike or ride; a person needs a lifetime to see them all. My Navajo friends say, “You can leave the Four Corners area, but you will always come back.” I doubt there are very many places in America, which have such a huge magnetism of place of home. When you leave, you long for the immense and beautiful emptiness. Stay and go anywhere you want, with very little competition and crowding.
There is also little doubt that past generations had it better. What bliss it must have been to go out onto the Colorado Plateau and discover things few others have ever seen – ruins, hanging gardens, untouched alcoves. Early San Juan County explorer Kent Frost recently went to his grave with a smile on his face for all his wanderings.
The times and the depth of those experiences are changing, rapidly. The San Juan County of our parents is different for our children. Places that once seemed off the edge of the known world are now more commonplace destinations. Early highway maps printed emphatic statements about the Four Corners: “Travel at your own risk.” Now people follow the GPS coordinates found on the Internet and no corner is untouched.
Still it is fabulous country, albeit diminished by a huge increase in visitation. Future generations will enjoy the country differently. They will have to compete for it. The campsite out on Comb Ridge I call my own, is now coveted by a dozen of others in April and May. The brilliant green spear point I so enjoy seeing after a long climb into the canyon, may be gone, stolen by the friendly people camped under the cottonwood across the way. The silent canyon I so adore for its tranquility, may find new visitors on motorized vehicles.
Yet we have an excellent opportunity to shape the ways in which our “back of beyond” country is managed. There is hope that places like Cedar Mesa will continue to be managed as primitive and we can preserve the beauty, solitude and sense of discovery to which our ancestors were so drawn.
Under legislation currently being crafted by the Utah Congressional Delegation, led by Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz, we may find lasting protection. As an important stakeholder assisting that process, Friends of Cedar Mesa has presented a proposal for a National Conservation Area. You can read the proposal by clicking here. Opinion by Mark Meloy, Executive Director, Friends of Cedar Mesa
On May 19th, more than a dozen volunteers showed up for our first clean up on Highway 261. Friends of Cedar Mesa is now an official "Adopt-a-Highway" partner for the section of the highway that extends for about 3 miles north of the top of the Moqi Dugway toward the heart of Cedar Mesa.
In a testament to the on-the-ground impact of open container laws, volunteers picked up an astounding number of beer cans, as well as various other pieces of trash. All together, the team picked up nearly thirty large trash bags of waste. Some of the pieces of trash clearly dated back as far as the 1970s.
After completing their work, volunteers were given a briefing on the "state of Cedar Mesa" by Rangers Scott Edwards and Laura Lantz. The group discussed issues from over grazing, to wood cutting, and site preservation.
New Book on Cedar Mesa
The Canyonlands Natural History Association has just published "Cliff Dwellers of Cedar Mesa", a book featuring Don Rommes' photos of ruins and rock art in the Cedar Mesa canyons, with accompanying text by Rommes and Bill Lipe. Don is an MD in California who specializes in saving premature babies, and is also an excellent photographer. Bill has done archaeological research in the Four Corners area, including Cedar Mesa, since the late 1950s, and is on the Friends of Cedar Mesa board of directors. He helped organize the successful "Celebrate Cedar Mesa" symposium Friends of Cedar Mesa sponsored in Blanding in November, 2012. Some of Don Rommes' photos were shown at the symposium, but there are many more in the book, plus archaeological information, and a plea for better protection of this wonderful area.
The book is priced at $19.95 plus mailing costs, and can be ordered from the CNHA on-line store
"Cliff Dwellers of Cedar Mesa" will be for sale at parks and monuments in SE Utah and SW Colorado, and should also be available at some of the commercial bookstores in the Four Corners area. If it hasn't shown up in your local bookstore, ask them to order some copies!
I’m in Bluff thinking about the state of Cedar Mesa and how Friends of Cedar Mesa fits into future management and preservation. I’m trying to think positively, but it’s a brown-out day. The air is gusting thick brown clouds of dust from Monument Valley. The snowfields in the La Plata Mountains of Colorado take on the red hues of desert sand in the aftermath of days like today. We’re lucky to have had only two such events so far this spring and this lousy dust storm confines me to my desk where I am finding it difficult to think positive thoughts.
Our Utah politicians come to mind. Seems like everything I’m for they’re against. Federal Land, the Antiquities Act, even the very idea of a National Conservation Area for Cedar Mesa seems to be dismissed without much chance for discussion. The word paradox comes to mind, as I think about it. These politicians don’t want the president to use his power to designate a national monument because it short circuits the local political processes. Yet the local politicians make it quite clear from the outset that they won’t support any further designations. What good are local political processes if the decision-makers have already made up their minds?
My thoughts are interrupted by the ping of a new email. The travel section of the Washington Post has an article about the thrill of discovery on Cedar Mesa: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/on-utahs-cedar-mesa-solitude-and-the-thrill-of-discovery/2013/04/18/f7176460-a2eb-11e2-82bc-511538ae90a4_story_1.html
“Check this out,” I said, holding up a potsherd painted with a grid and stripes. We were like enthralled children, intent on our discoveries. I wondered what kind of life belonged to the hand that had painted these designs, whether out of devotion or boredom, I’m not sure. Certainly, other visitors had been here, but there was remarkably little evidence of them. The hikers who discover this site seem to share an unspoken respect for its sacredness, leaving its potsherds where they found them for future travelers. I sifted through the sand, finding charcoal from old fires and tiny eaten corncobs. It felt as if I were standing among ghosts.
At one point the author is extolling the sacredness of discovery but then cannot resist but to dig and sift just like any other looter of archaeological sites. Paradox plain and simple. As the news of little visited sites continue to pervade the media and internet those sites lose their artifacts and the very reason people are attracted to the sites. In fact, all the popularized sites within a day’s hike of a trailhead or road have lost all their artifacts. Hard to believe, but true. If you haven’t visited that favorite spot on Cedar Mesa for a while, prepare yourself. You will still experience the beautiful old growth forest, the lovely cliff dwellings and ruins, the satiating solitude, but don’t expect to see many artifacts.
My weather born rant continues. There are lots of good rules and advice offered by the rangers at Kane Gulch. Listen up to learn about low impact visitation and don’t step on the cryptobiotic soils. Also don’t drink the water. In a drought year like this cattle crowd into the narrow draws in search of water. They poop in the potholes and shade up in the ruins. You be careful not to leave any trace but let the cows do what ever they want. Another huge paradox and cultural injustice. A few years ago my friend’s dog drank from a water hole heavily used by cattle. The dog nearly died of the bacterial leavings of manure in that water.
The BLM has lots of regulations on Cedar Mesa but provides little of its vast resources to law enforcement and education. There is one good law enforcement ranger for the vast area of San Juan County south of Monticello, Utah. He is not always on the job. He has a life. He has training requirements that take him away. He gets weekends off and vacations. Some of the time there is no law enforcement ranger for Cedar Mesa. Even things like car break ins, much less pot hunting goes uninvestigated.
With so-called “sequestration” of the Federal Government, the sieve of public financing becomes even finer and almost nothing drops out the bottom for on the ground education and enforcement. The rangers on Cedar Mesa have no seasonal ranger help this spring and must rely on volunteers for patrols and visitor center activities. The apparent lack of even travel money keeps them from monitoring sites requiring overnight hikes.
Despite its problems and paradoxes the environs of Greater Cedar Mesa continue to attract huge numbers of visitors from all over the world. Those people support our burgeoning tourist economy. Paradox: We want those people to come and yet we do almost nothing to make certain the resources stay sustainable. In essence we are currently mining the finite cultural resources of San Juan County, Utah. The hordes come and the artifacts disappear. Silent canyons of great beauty remain, but the magic of discovery, a stone tool or intricately painted pot sherd, are gone. The solid stone walls of a thousand year old ruin are marvelous, but are scoured of the material of daily life.
We clearly need to elevate the prominence and importance of Cedar Mesa on a national scale. We need a Greater Cedar Mesa national monument or conservation area. Paradox: more visitors and more disturbance. Right now I’m not sure how else to convince the government to provide the funding and management needed to preserve what’s left. But I’ll come up with some more positive ideas on a less windy day.
Polemics surrounding proposed planning for federal land in San Juan County all seem to hinge on the fate of Cedar Mesa wilderness. Fact, rumor and innuendo all favor protection for the fabulous Native American cultural sites on Cedar Mesa. An important barometer of public opinion, the Salt Lake Tribune, recently endorsed that wild hub of southeast Utah for Congressional wilderness designation.
This huge endorsement will not go unnoticed as Utah’s delegation of elected officials decides how to proceed with the “dialogue” that finally results in a Congressional bill. In reality the dialogue remains behind closed doors, a discussion between San Juan County officials and Utah senators. The “dialogue” has resulted in no public proposals and yet there is the suggestion that a bill might miraculously appear in the near future. To suggest all citizens are involved is nonsense.
A truly bad bill is one that uses wilderness on Cedar Mesa as a political hostage to release other wild areas in the county from future protection. If Cedar Mesa is to get the wilderness protection most people recognize it deserves, that wilderness proposal should come with no strings attached. The broad strokes of land use planning for an area the size and diversity of San Juan County should come only after major opportunity for public participation. Friends of Cedar Mesa await that larger process to unfold.
Meloy meets with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. America's Great Outdoors listening session, August 3, 2010, Salt Lake City.
Free archaeology event! Our friends at Abajo Archaeology invite you to learn about the ancient history of White Mesa in San Juan County, Utah. Help wash artifacts with archaeologists and find out about Abajo's recent excavations on White Mesa. Saturday, August 21, 9 AM-noon, at the Bluff Community Center ramada. Read more
Friends of Cedar Mesa will be at the 2010 Pecos Conference in Silverton, Colorado, this weekend. Stop by Friday afternoon and check out our poster presentation, "A Web Portal for Cedar Mesa Archaeology." See the complete Pecos Conference schedule
Erica Olsen brings Friends of Cedar Mesa to the Pecos Conference. Thank you to everyone who visited our poster presentation! Archaeologists, if you've given talks about archaeology in southeast Utah, we can post your PowerPoint presentations on our website. Contact us
What are some of your favorite books about the greater Cedar Mesa area (including Comb Ridge and any and all areas around Bluff and Blanding)? We'll post a list with your suggestions on the new Reading Cedar Mesa page of our website.
Got a favorite Cedar Mesa photo or photo illustration? Email your file (JPEG under 1 MB, please) to pj(at)cedarmesafriends.org. Size: 917 x 260 px. We'll post submissions on our site; you'll vote for the winner, which will replace the placeholder image above. Deadline: July 15.