Bryce Canyon National Park is renowned for its colorful amphitheaters and starry skies. Visitors to that park could, however, soon have to contend with convoys of rumbling coal trucks and dusty skies if a coal mine goes in roughly 10 miles from Bryce Canyon.
Earlier this week the Utah Board of Oil, Gas & Mining gave its approval for the strip mine near the tiny town of Alton, Utah. Barring a legal challenge, apparently only a multi-million dollar reclamation bond stands in the way of the mine's opening.
The mine is expected to produce about 2 million tons of coal a year, with coal trucks rolling steadily through the tiny town of Panguitch just west of Bryce Canyon.
“The board’s poor decision puts our local economy and a crown jewel at risk—Bryce Canyon National Park, which supports more than 1,800 local jobs and contributed more than $89 million to the state’s economy in 2008," said David Nimkin, the southwest regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association.
“By every measure, this proposed strip mine will degrade the special qualities that millions of visitors to Bryce Canyon treasure each year. Water, air quality, night sky, and the local population will all be negatively affected by this mine," he added. “NPCA will continue to pursue every avenue available in the months ahead to prevent this ill-conceived development from moving forward and will continue to advocate for local, state, and federal policies that consider the inherent value of resources above the ground as well as beneath it.”
According to an Associated Press story about the ruling, the company had contributed $10,000 to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's election campaign prior to the board's consideration of the matter and voiced frustration with how long the approval process was taking.