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Vandalism Permanently Damages Utah's National Parks and Public Lands

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JUDY FAHYS / KUER NEWS
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Archeologists say as tourism increases in Utah, graffiti becomes a growing problem in the state’s national parks and public lands.

Josh Ewing  is the executive director of Friends of Cedar Mesa. He says just a few days ago he found a new drawing with the words “peace and love” on a rock, right next to a 2 thousand year old petroglyph.

“People don’t have the appropriate respect for these places, these petroglyph sites and ruins sites are really sacred to Native American people who think that their ancestors still visit these places" he says. "And, you know, none of us would think of scribbling our name on the Sistine Chapel, or Temple Square, or someplace like that.”

Ewing says tourism to San Juan County has increased dramatically over the past couple of years. But the area only has two law enforcement rangers to oversee the more than 100 thousand archeological sites in the area.  

Vaughn Hadenfeldt  is the owner of Far Out Expeditions. He says he often finds vandalism and looting as he works as a guide for archeological expeditions.

“When someone digs a site they have destroyed the information of the site" he says. "They have disrupted all the layers of soil that archeologists use to figure out what’s going on there, and then they’ve taken the artifacts, so they’ve removed everything out of context, and we’ve just lost the story of what happened there. And there’s no way to recover that.”

Hadenfeldt is working with the Bureau of Land Management on a program called “Visit with Respect.” It includes videos explaining to the public how to act appropriately at archeological sites.

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