NINE MILE CANYON — Bill Barrett Corp., has set aside $500,000 to foster research and preservation of archaeological and historic resources in Nine Mile Canyon and the West Tavaputs Plateau.

A pair of meetings to discuss what those spending priorities should be will be held this week in Price and in Salt Lake City for groups interested in the protection or enhancement of cultural resources. Priorities will likely be culled from questionnaires distributed in the fall to a variety of groups and people.

Preliminary priorities based on the surveys favor directing grant dollars toward research and recording of sites. Interested groups also want the grant program focused on areas such as Range Creek and Desolation Canyon. The efforts of the work accomplished through the grant program would likely be profiled in an annual report or a public symposium. The grants are not designed to duplicate or transcend the work already being done by Bill Barrett Corp., or the Bureau of Land Management as the result of an agreement signed in January 2010.

Under that agreement in a compromise hailed as historic, the oil and gas development company agreed to reduce the impact of its extraction operation by more than half — dropping from a short-term surface disturbance of 3,656 acres to 1,603 acres. The company also substantially reduced the number well pads, agreed to additional environmental protections such as dust mitigation and is paying for interpretative signage at specific cultural sites. The agreement included a number of signatories, including environmental groups such as the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition.

The grant program is another voluntary step the company has taken to help foster the documentation and preservation of cultural resources in the area.

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