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19 March 2005
Cave discovery sparks environmental concern in Kentucky

Environmentalists who've been fighting an industrial park going up near Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky, USA) have a new focus for their opposition - the discovery of prehistoric Indian remains and drawings nearby. The artifacts were discovered in January and February, after construction crews for the Kentucky Trimodal Transpark, which broke ground last year, accidentally punched an opening in a previously unknown 2,000-foot-long cave nearby. Experts from Western Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky then discovered the bones of two Indians and several ancient drawings on hardened mud and limestone rock, in an area since sealed for its protection.
     Environmentalists and historic preservation advocates argue the discovery underscores the need for full-blown environmental and archaeological studies at the transpark. "The question that remains in my mind (is) will there be other caves and will there be other cultural resources impacted by this development?" said Kenneth Carstens, a Murray State University anthropology professor. Carstens, whose doctoral dissertation was on the relationship between prehistoric Indians and the cave-riddled terrain of south-central Kentucky, is just one of several researchers or activists arguing that more study needs to be done.
     While the newly discovered cave does not connect with Mammoth Cave, park officials continue to be "concerned about the indirect and cumulative effects of the transpark development and its operations" on the national park, spokeswoman Vickey Carson said. But officials from the Intermodal Transportation Authority, which is developing the industrial park, argue they've done sufficient studies already, and that the environmentalists are attempting to exploit the archaeological discoveries because they've lost all other battles.
     Being developed by a partnership of three cities, eight counties and the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, the park eventually could encompass as much as 4,000 acres and include an airport. Yet even as construction proceeds, critics - including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Sierra Club - argue that two federal laws, the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, require the developers to conduct large-scale field studies. What's needed, Carstens said, is for experts to walk the land, inspecting for cave and sinkhole openings, searching for evidence of civilizations that could go back thousands of years. Unless that kind of study is done, other treasures may be missed or destroyed, Carstens said, adding that the recent discoveries help illustrate how the cultural resources in and around Mammoth Cave are among the most significant in the world.

Source: The Courier-Journal (15 March 2005)

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