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July 26th, 2013

Treasured Parks and Water Quality in the Mountain West: Two More Reasons to Ban Fracking on Federal Lands

By Katherine Cirullo, Food & Water Watch

This blog is the first in a series highlighting national treasures that could be affected by natural gas development should President Obama allow fracking to move forward near federal lands.

Vast, otherworldly, humbling. This is red rock country. Notable to Utah, it is a place of wonder. It is a place where I have spent days happily lost, wandering about deep slot canyons and standing atop spires of sandstone, gazing out at fields of hoodoos that look as if they have been melted by the sun. I have spent nights wrapped in my sleeping bag beside canyon walls, craggy silhouettes against a sky spattered with stars. I have woken up to those same canyon walls illuminated pink by the light of dawn, beckoning a new day of adventure.

The stillness of the desert was only broken when little geckos scurried from one rock to the next. The quietness was only cut when a fellow wanderlust would call out to no one: “Cooo-cooooo!” It’s sound reverberating.

And then there is the river, and the languid days I have spent lying like a lizard on the red rocks that form the banks of the Colorado. With all the strength it can muster, the river flows and winds through the canyon lands, carrying downstream whatever snowmelt ran off the Rocky Mountain peaks that year. I can’t help but think how the mighty river that carved this epic landscape now gasps for help.

Utah boasts five national parks, all located in the Colorado River Basin. Furthermore, they are surrounded by federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. If you do not wish to camp directly inside the park, the BLM administers and protects vast amounts of public lands for people to camp on and explore. Like the parks they surround, much of the BLM land in Utah contains rich natural and cultural history.

Having attended college in the Southwest, I had the privilege of being able to experience BLM land and Utah’s National Parks at my leisure. If ever schoolwork was too stressful or our tiny campus was too humdrum, Utah’s landscapes were not far and never ceased to cure my petty ailments. Yes, living close to the area made visits particularly accessible. But the truth is, these areas are mine. They are yours. They are lands to be conserved and protected for the people to enjoy and for the sake of ecology, biodiversity and preservation of history. But they are now threatened: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and adjacent BLM land are located in an area of Utah eyed for fracking.

BLM’s intention to continue oil and gas development on this land is outright. Given President Obama’s position on natural gas development, this raises concern. 

While there are myriad reasons to ban fracking in the U.S., and near these lands in particular, the potential effects of drilling and fracking on local water supplies are especially concerning. The Colorado River and its watershed will see increased air and water pollution if fracking nearby federal lands is permitted any further. In addition to potentially harming the health of visitors, contaminated surface and ground water from accidents, leaks and spills could harm the local wildlife and vegetation of Utah’s National Parks and surrounding public areas. Water contamination also threatens agriculture in the West, which relies on the Colorado River for irrigation. In addition, greenhouse gasses emitted from the fracking process will accelerate climate change; methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This could lead to the perpetuation of severe droughts in the region, a factor that has contributed to the Colorado River’s decreasing volume and flow.

National Parks and federal BLM land exist to preserve and protect our landscapes, wildlife, and resources. These lands are not to be given away to the oil and gas industry by the government. I hope, years down the road, I can visit these lands with the same adventuresome and lighthearted spirit I always had, without fearing for my health.  I hope their beauty will not be tainted by massive oil and gas wells. I hope the Colorado River watershed, which supplies water to much of the Western United States, will not be destroyed for current and future generations.

Stay tuned for more on our campaign to tell President Obama that natural gas development on federal lands cannot be part of his climate change solution. 

16 Comments on Treasured Parks and Water Quality in the Mountain West: Two More Reasons to Ban Fracking on Federal Lands

  1. William Sharfman, Ph.D. says:

    Fracking endangers the water supply and human life. It should be banned everywhere in America.

  2. Reah high says:

    Please ban Fracking on Federal Land!
    Federal land is supposed to be there for us all and for the generation to come not for short term rapping of the land for profit, that leaves the water tables and air polluted! Fracking is the greatest threat to our clean water for our future generations. Pleas Stop them from taking the resources and leaving us with the clean up bill!

  3. Jacqueline Weiss says:

    Our pristine wilderness areas, these National Parks that belong to all Americans, should NOT ever be opened to Fracking. The pollution and potential damage to our water supplies and aquifers makes this type of activity much to risky.

  4. Mary G Thompson says:

    I am thanking God in advance that You, President Obama who promised to help SAVE our environment finds the strength to stand up to BIG OIL/GAS and all Corporations who are acting as if they OWN all of us! THEY DO NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE the people are standing up to them. Are you with us?

  5. Phyllis Crawford says:

    It’s never a good investment if it is harmful to the environment

  6. Nancy Rapp says:

    An avid camper myself, I can NOT imagine the horror of allowing fracking in or around our National Parks. The pollution, toxins, noise, and other hazards make this type of extracting fossil fuels the worst yet. Also, the ground water will be ruined and I”ve read how in some areas in Texas, earthquakes have happened near fracking sites.

    Fracking and tarsands are only the two newest forms of seeking energy from dead dinosaurs.

    Let’s move on already and show some progress as humans. Let’s go solar, wind, and hydro.

  7. Karen Macbride says:

    Hands OFF our Public Lands!!!

  8. Debra Raymond says:

    I do not believe that this has been examined fully. And I don’t believe studies sponsored by the big energy companies. Ban this on Federal and all lands!

  9. Lee Ann Stock says:

    President Obama,
    Natural gas development on federal lands cannot be part of any climate change solution. Stand up for the citizens of this country.
    We still have faith in you. Do the right thing. Do it so your children can be proud of their father for standing strong in a tough situation. Leave a legacy they can support when they discuss your decisions with their children. Do it for all of our children.

    Sincerely,
    Lee Ann

  10. Sherry Staub says:

    How is this even possible? On Federal Land?

  11. M.McDermott says:

    Nature dictates a clean, healthy, pure earth life and my mind and body agree,

  12. Teresa Mccloskey says:

    Ban fracking everywhere now!

  13. Lynda Jarsocrak says:

    I have been fortunate enough to have seen many of our national parks before any place was fracked. These are public property held in trust for wildlife and natural places for now and the generations to come. No fracking will be worth destroying these special places.

  14. jeff ronner says:

    i am so scared for this country that we could listen to big oil and gas and there phony gift from heaven .this is the greatest thing to happen since sliced bread.we are just trading one horror for another even worst horror .not only do we just get screwed even worst in the long run ,with water over our land being poisoned forever .methane is super green house gas .WHERE IS THE FUSION PLANTS AND SOLAR PLANT ,WIND PLANTS ,TIDAL ENERGY .AND HYDROGEN CARS ARE A MUST FOR THE FUTURE .OR WE CAN KISS THIS PLANET GOOD BY FOR HUMANS SOONER THEN LATER .WE THING WE WHERE MADE IN HIS IMAGE ,DO YOU THINK HE WOULD SHIT IN HIS OWN BACKYARD .I DONT THINK SO .NUFF SAID

  15. jim ann howard says:

    Ban fracking everywhere – a global ban.

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