Ancient Petroglyphs Damaged by Target Shooters in Utah

Petroglyph rocks. Photo: Gypsy Road Trip.
Shotgun casings litter Utah's Lake Mountains.  Photo: via the Salt Lake Tribune.

Shotgun casings litter Utah’s Lake Mountains.
Photo: via the Salt Lake Tribune.

Target shooters in Lake Mountain, Utah are causing damage to ancient petroglyphs by placing cans of paint atop them, and using the cans as targets.

Archaeological records dating back thousands of years are now marred by paint splatters, bullet holes, and other detritus, and the result is an ongoing conflict between shooters, property owners, and the local Bureau of Land Management (BLM). “Please do not shoot at glass, metals, plastics, home appliances, electronic components, or furniture,” the BLM website urges Lake Mountain visitors.

“If you take paint off [of the rocks], the patina comes off and the rock art is gone. It’s pretty irritating,” BLM archaeologist Mike Sheehan told the Salt Lake City Tribune. According to the paper, the petroglyph-covered rocks “now look more like a Jackson Pollock canvas than a piece of nature.”

The damaged surfaces may be impossible to restore.

Petroglyph rocks. Photo: Gypsy Road Trip.

Petroglyph rocks.
Photo: Gypsy Road Trip.

An estimated 50,000 people come to the western shore of Utah Lake each year to practice shooting, which is legal on most public land in the region. Less than three percent of the 3.2 million acres that the Salt Lake branch of the BLM oversees are areas where shooting is prohibited.

Nevertheless, the organization is searching for ways to regulate and control the shooting, holding town hall meetings through the end of the month to discuss alternatives. The agency has also proposed giving 160 acres to Utah County for a shooting range.

“We are looking for voluntary compliance to protect resources. It’s not working,” said BLM employee Bekee Hotze. “We tried to educate the public with signs, but the signs are shot up.”

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