By quietly building a regional center in Colorado to house Anasazi artifacts - and insisting that Utah discoveries be sent there - the Department of Interior is jeopardizing Utahns' ability to enjoy Indian archeological treasures at their own museum in Blanding.

The federal government should reconsider keeping Utah Indian artifacts at the Edge of Cedars Museum in Blanding rather than shipping them to Colorado. This is particularly true since Interior rather ignored Utah interests in the first place.The problem over the artifacts comes as the result of completion of the Bureau of Land Management's Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colo. The $5 million center was built to house artifacts uncovered during an excavation for a reservoir and now officials want to put any other artifacts from the Four Corners region there.

Incredibly, the Interior Department decision to build the Colorado center in the first place, and make it a regional storehouse for artifacts, was done without input from Utahns or other residents in the region.

Federal officials failed to hold public hearings on the proposed center or seriously study alternatives to build or upgrade other museums. If that were not enough, there is now political pressure being put on BLM offices in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah to use the Dolores facility.

In the meantime, Edge of the Cedars Museum has begun charging to store federal artifacts. The money would be used to help upgrade facilities to meet federal repository and curatorial standards. The federal government is unwilling to pay the fees and would rather send the artifacts to the roomy, state-of-the-art Colorado center.

Because of the quiet move to build a single regional depository, Utahns are being forced to decide whether they want to spend $1.5 million to upgrade the Edge of Cedars Museum or start traveling to Colorado to see the state's Indian artifacts.

Utah could ask the Interior Department to foot at least some of the museum's upgrade costs. Federal officials say the regional repository is the only option they can afford until Utah upgrades its museum. Yet fairness demands they take Utah needs into account.

Interior officials could start by paying the state for artifacts stored in Utah. Second, they could cooperate with state officials in planning and funding expansion of the Blanding museum. Third, they could stop pressuring local Bureau of Land Management staffs to move the artifacts.