Already Smoggy Rocky Mountain National Park Could Become Even Smoggier with Increased Fracking on Nearby Public Lands
Having been born and raised in Colorado, I grew up enjoying all the natural wonders this state has to offer. My favorite place by far is Rocky Mountain National Park. When I was young, my family had the tradition of going there every Father’s Day and hiking to Emerald Lake. One year in particular stands out in my memory. I must have been about five, and my two younger sisters were three-and-a-half and just under a year old. My dad carried my youngest sister in a baby backpack; she drooled all over the back of his head and down his neck the entire hike, which he found refreshing. My other sister was old enough to manage the hike herself and insisted on bringing her plastic 101 Dalmatians backpack. I was the adventurous one in the family, and would run ahead of everyone, only to be scolded for not staying within eyesight.
Once we reached Emerald Lake, I immediately ran out onto a log that jutted into the water and promptly fell off. Luckily, it was pretty shallow and I only got my shoes wet. However, this did make for an uncomfortable hike back to the car. While exploring near the water’s edge, I found a dragonfly larva under a rock and was fascinated by how alien it looked and how it could possibly transform into something so delicate. My sister had put her Dalmatian backpack down to play, and when my mom went to pick up the bag, she noticed it was very heavy for a three year old to be carrying. She opened it to find it filled with books! My little sister did not complain one word about the weight that she had carried the entire hike. My sisters and I sat down by the lake and read books while our parents took a nap. I remember how clear the water was, how cool the air felt even though it was summer, and the beautiful scenery.Rocky Mountain National Park will always have a special place in my memory. It was where I first learned to love being outdoors, and it is where I developed my curiosity about natural history. However, Rocky Mountain National Park, my family’s favorite day-trip destination, is at serious risk due to existing nearby industrialization and proposals to drill even more fracking wells.
The Bureau of Land Management has proposed new rules for fracking on public lands, but they would do nothing to stop the drilling and fracking along the Front Range that pollutes the air and obscures the views from Rocky Mountain National Park.
The clear, crisp views and fragile ecosystem of Rocky Mountain National Park will be threatened even further by toxic air pollution if any more fracking wells are drilled. It is already considered the smoggiest national park outside of California, and the proliferation of fracking could bump it up the list. Its position downwind from several sources of air pollution has already begun to take its toll on the heath of the park’s alpine lake ecosystems and plant communities. Additionally, haze from pollution has hindered visibility, obscuring the park’s scenic vistas for visitors.
Increased smog from more fracking near Rocky Mountain National Park would also be hazardous to public health and to our climate. The wells themselves contribute to pollution by venting dangerous pollutants like benzene and toluene into the air– chemicals that are extremely harmful to public health. These pollutants mix with emissions from the heavy-duty truck traffic, large generators and compressor stations to create ground-level ozone and smog. If you’ve ever wanted to come the Rocky Mountain National Park to breathe the fresh mountain air, you may have to think twice.
I hope to one day continue my family’s tradition of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park with my children. It would be a national tragedy if it were destroyed in the name of oil and gas industry profits. Take action today and tell the Bureau of Land Management and President Obama that we don’t want to degrade our air quality and our beloved natural treasures only to see the oil and gas industry make a quick buck at our expense.
Molly Geppert recently graduated with a dual Master’s Degree from American University and the University for Peace in Costa Rica in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development and International Affairs. She has been working with Food & Water Watch since October 2012 against fracking in Maryland and Colorado, and will continue to do so until fracking ends.