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Canyons of the Ancients Stays Quiet

When Earthjustice attorney Jay Tutchton got word heavy equipment was headed for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado's southwest corner to engage in oil and gas survey work he knew it wasn't good. Sixty thousand pound trucks that create mini earthquakes were setting up to rumble the earth in a mapping exercise. Although the monument is already 85% leased out for oil and gas development, the fragile archaeological treasures left behind by a mysterious native people who once dominated this part of the world could be damaged by the survey work. Rare reptiles and other parts of the desert ecosystem were also at risk. Tutchton told a federal judge the project's environmental assessment was inadequate and that the survey violated the monument proclamation and BLM's own interim guidance on how to manage the monument pending completion of a monument plan. He asked for a temporary restraining order halting it, which the judge agreed to. Next he entered into negotiations with the oil and gas survey company and the federal government in an effort to change the project to be less harmful to the environment. It worked. A few weeks later he emerged with a settlement agreement outlining a new survey plan much improved over the original plan.

Jay Tutchton works out of the Earthjustice Denver Law Clinic. He represented the San Juan Citizen's Alliance, The Wilderness Society, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, and Colorado Environmental Coalition in this case.