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HOMEBUYERS: WANT A RUIN TO CALL YOUR OWN?

SHARE HOMEBUYERS: WANT A RUIN TO CALL YOUR OWN?

For Sale: Older home in Torrey area in Wayne County. Constructed about A.D. 750. Abandoned by original owner. Comes with 10 acres. Contact the Office of Institutional Trust Lands.

Actually, the 10-acre parcels of state trust lands won't go on the market until late spring or early summer of 1996. But when they do, these parcels will offer something unique in Utah real estate: Indian ruins."We have seen in the marketplace that people are willing to pay a premium for lands with those kinds of resources," said Kevin Carter, assistant director of Institutional Trust Lands. "And we have a lot of lands with those kinds of resources."

The Torrey project is an experiment on the part of trust land officials, who are charged by the Utah Constitution with generating income from lands granted to the state by the federal government at the time of statehood. Income from those lands goes into a trust, the interest from which helps fund schools.

Historically, archaeological resources have been viewed by trust lands officials as a hindrance to their ability to develop those lands and thereby generate income for the trust. The new approach recognizes that archaeological resources may have more than aesthetic value.

Carter believes people will pay more for parcels of land with Indian ruins than lands without.

"If lands with archaeological resources - and we have lots of them in Utah - can be viewed as an advantage rather than a detriment, you will see greater enlightenment (on the part of trust lands administrators) in preserving those resources."

The Torrey project is patterned after a similar project on private lands in southwestern Colorado. As the developer of thoselands went to subdivide his property, he discovered numerous Anasazi Indian ruins.

Given that the land was private, the owner was under no obligation to protect the ruins. But instead of bulldozing the sites, he chose to market the building lots with the ruins as a sales inducement.

When people purchase the build-ing lots, they accept very restrictive covenants that come with the deed. They can build a home and use the land and juniper forest, but they cannot indiscriminately excavate the ruins. They can hire a professional archaeologist to excavate the site.

Carter said the same kinds of restrictions will likely be imposed on the purchasers of the 10-acre parcels near Torrey. They will not be allowed to excavate the ruins without the direction of a qualified professional archaeologist. And any artifacts recovered will likely be curated at the Utah Museum of Natural History.

"We have no intention of selling off the artifacts," Carter said. "Those artifacts will remain the property of the trust."

There are currently some 3 million acres of school trust lands in the state, most of which generate very little income to the trust. Most pose little potential as home or cabin sites under the new marketing scheme.

But numerous trust parcels of land in the St. George, Moab, Monticello, Blanding and Torrey areas do have abundant and often spectacular Indian ruins. The Torrey project - which involves only about 55 acres - is seen as a test as to whether or not selling that real estate with restrictive covenants can generate both income for the trust and protection for the resources.

Utah's archaeological community - often at odds with trust lands officials over the adequate protection of cultural resources - is cautiously optimistic about the approach. Most are holding judgment until they see exactly what it is that will be done with the trust lands.

"I hope it works," said Duncan Metcalfe, curator of North American archaeology at the Utah Museum of Natural History. "It is an innovative way of trying to deal with state lands' need to maximize profit and their desire to do the right thing as far as the resources are concerned. With a little work and a lot of luck, it could be a positive step for protection of archaeological resources."