A proposal to create a "resource protection zone" around ancient Indian ruins at Hovenweep National Monument is in jeopardy.
Lorraine Mintzmyer, the regional director of the National Park Service, Denver, said Thursday that the plan is being reassessed. She was interviewed during the Park Service's superintendents conference, which has drawn more than 800 park supervisors and their spouses from throughout the country.Under a draft management plan released in March, three of the areas in Hovenweep - in southern Utah and Colorado - would be consolidated into a single unit instead of being separated into isolated outposts. This "resource protection zone" would be managed jointly by the Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Meanwhile, state and private land within the new zone would be acquired through the BLM's land-trading authority. Two of Hovenweep's six units, Square Tower Ruins and Cajon Ruins, are in extreme southeastern Utah and the rest are in southwestern Colorado.
The plan calls for the new protection zone to cover 6,000 acres, rather than the present 602 acres in three separate plots.
Almost as soon as it was announced in March, the plan drew flack from southern Utahns, Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, and conservationists.
Nielson and some of his southern Utah constituents said the plan would needlessly hamper economic growth. Terri Martin of the National Parks and Conservation Association said it would not offer enough protection to the ruins.
In a Deseret News interview, Mintzmyer said the cooperative strategy for protecting the ruins was worked out between the Park Service and the Utah and Colorado directors of the BLM. The Park Service wanted "to see if we can't, as an alternative to boundary expansion, work cooperatively with another sister agency to achieve the same purpose," she said.
"We have received numerous and quite liberal comments from the public as a result of the environmental assessment that went out to the public. I will soon be meeting with the (BLM) state directors of those two states to assess those overall comments and see where we go from here."
She acknowledged that criticism has come from both sides, and said she couldn't say how it might be resolved. That would be premature before meeting with the BLM state directors, she said.
"It is possible that it's something that isn't achievable," she said. "We thought we needed to try it."
Within a few days she will meet with the BLM officials. Afterwards, she and the BLM will send recommendations to their respective Washington headquarters.
Asked whether it's possible the resource protection zone plan will be dropped or changed radically, Mintzmyer said, "It's very possible. Anything's possible at this point."