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In the Southwest, archeological dilemmas and a red-rock success story that ended disputes.

Sparsely populated and coal-rich, New Mexico's San Juan Basin awaits a boom as miners move in to tap 25,000 leased acres of strippable coal. The basin also is the nation's richest ancient treasure trove, with maybe 250,000 Indian archeological sites. It's one of only four known places in the world with fossils from both the dinosaur era and the beginning of mammals--the state is building a museum in Albuquerque for its finds.

Mining companies by law must survey archeological sites, but laws on paleontology are less clear; talks are underway to develop ways to salvage some fossils. Legislation may save three unusual eroded areas: Bisti, De-na-zin and Ah-shi-sle-pah.

Still, many worry. How can so many exposed sites survive intrusions like the new power plant and town for 20,000 proposed near De-na-zin and Bisti? And how well can a science whose usual tools are dental picks and toothbrushes work with an industry requiring bulldozers?

Nobody's arguing any more over wilderness in the Arizona Strip--land north from the Grand Canyon to Utah. The BLM's inventory found 774,000 acres of potential wilderness (including Paria Canyon, at left), plus lots of uranium. But it recommended only 30,000 acres for protection--much too stingy for Arizona's environmentalists.

To head off time-consuming litigation, the company will the most mining rights offerd conservationists a compromise. After eight months of joint field trips and hours poring over maps, they agreed: 394,000 acres should be wilderness. Together they approached potential foes, until all were persuaded. An inspiration for elsewhere? Why not?
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Arizona; New Mexico
Publication:Sunset
Date:May 1, 1984
Words:257
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