National Geographic : 1980 Dec
of the Earth petitioned the Office of Surface Mining to declare the Alton coalfields un suitable for surface mining. This was the first test of Section 522 of the 1977 Surface Mining Act, which provides for such a des ignation if mining would "adversely affect any publicly owned park" or "result in a sub stantial loss or reduction of long-range pro ductivity of water supply or of food or fiber products" of renewable resource lands. In May 1980 I attended the first public hearing on the petition. Some 200 people had gathered in a large windowless base ment hall of a Kanab motel to talk about that Alton coalfield north of town. Spokesmen for the environmental groups-and a sur prising number of local citizens-stressed the damage they felt the mine would cause to Bryce Canyon National Park. They claimed that dust from mining would ruin the matchless visibility, that blasting might topple the delicate pinnacles and spires-a fear that tests have since al layed (page 783). They decried the sights and sounds of a large strip mine-with its draglines, bulldozers, haul roads, 120-ton coal trucks-and the eventual huge scar if reclamation proved unsuccessful. All these would be incompatible, the speakers in sisted, with the experience that visitors to Yovimpa Point had the right to expect. Another charge in the petition-that the surface disturbance and mining of ground water from the Navajo aquifer would threaten the area's water supply-worried many local citizens deeply. It was this con cern that had caused several ranchers to be come copetitioners with the environmental groups, in an alliance that a year or two ear lier would have seemed unthinkable. "How Am I Going to Ranch?" I drove up beautiful Johnson Canyon, a few miles east of Kanab, one afternoon and stopped to chat with some of these ranchers. Jet Mackelprang, a burly former marine whose grandparents settled in Johnson Can yon in the 1860s, stood feeding his peacocks outside his house, set in a deep bay in a pink Navajo sandstone cliff. His irrigated fields raise fodder for about a hundred cattle. "With a thousand miners driving up and down that road every day between Kanab and the mine, how am I going to ranch?" he wanted to know. "Like other ranchers in the canyon, I drive my cattle along that road when I move them from one pasture to an other. How am I going to do that with all that traffic? And the dust-you can imagine what that will be like! Those cows are fin icky eaters-they don't eat grass that has too much dust on it. ice we settle down, life I be pretty good in Tica )," says minerKim Wilson t). He lives in a trailer vn fathered by a Plateau sources Ltd. uranium ie nearby. All by itself northof Lake well, Ticaboo has a motel, cery store, laundry, and tool; developers look for rd to a bank, restaurant, dgas station. Lots are available for rkers to build homes. 'e're trying to avoid the gma of a company town," eveloper says.