Delicate balance

1st December 2000 at 00:00
(Photograph) - The greyyellow moonscape of Mancos shale makes Factory Butte, north-west of Hanksville, Utah (seen here through a sandstone window) one of the most photographed features in the San Rafael Swell. This redrock country of slot canyons, ascending plateaux, major rock arches and natural bridges is currently being fiercely contested between conservationists and those who want to develop tourism and recreation, with government grants

Once the hideout for Butch Cassidy and his gang, the Swell has mre recently resounded to the roar of off-road vehicles , damaging the fragile soil and vegetation on which its eerie beauty depends. Bighorn sheep and the endangered San Rafael cactus are easily harmed by racing motorcycles.

For more on the controversy between the Bureau of Land Management and those who favour a Redrock Wilderness Act to protect the desert, visit www. and http:energy.senate. govhearingsforestsBlkRk_ SanRaf_ 4_26_00 young.htm. Photograph: David MuenchCorbis

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