On Saturday, September 24, we celebrate Public Lands Day, a day dedicated to enjoying and serving our national parks, national forests, and other public lands – some of the most beautiful and precious places in the country. Food & Water Watch staff love our public lands, and we’ve shared some of our stories about our favorite experiences there. You can enjoy federal public lands fee-free on Saturday – but if you truly value these special places, you should also take steps to protect them.
Did you know that fracking companies have leased over 34 million acres of public land – an area seven times the size of New Jersey? These places should be protected for future generations, but instead, fracking companies are drilling and fracking, posing serious risks to the air, water, habitats, and nearby communities. And that is just the beginning — over 200 million more acres that overlay oil and gas deposits could be fracked in the future.
All the stories below come from our visits to parks at risk from nearby fracking on public lands – and these are just a few of the places at risk. We wanted to share why these places matter so much to us, and why we want to protect them. Will you join us?
Glacier National Park
Regional Director of Development
I knew the glaciers were melting and I needed to see them before they disappear. In the summer of 2015, my partner and I made that dream happen with a 33-mile backpacking trip in Glacier National Park. When we arrived at our first backcountry campsite, we were excited to make the acquaintance of a retired smokejumper name Ralph. Over meals of dehydrated bean chili, Ralph told us stories about his 25 years of firefighting in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. “You know,” he said, “many people don’t realize that these parks aren’t just pretty places. Mountain ranges like the Sierras, the Rockies, and the Cascades protect the sources of drinking water for millions of people. The mountain runoff and glacial melt finds its way into rivers, streams, and aquifers.”
I reflected on the dwindling glaciers saddled on nearby peaks. When we frack and permanently damage public lands, it destroys habitat, poisons drinking water, and accelerates climate change. Let’s keep Glacier’s name as an icon of the American West and not an homage to its past.
Glacier National Park
Digital Program Director
But the glaciers themselves were difficult to find. They’ve been receding for decades, and we got distant glimpses of them from the road, but the hike in this picture is about as close as we got to any glaciers on foot.
Fracking releases methane that speeds up climate change, hastening the glaciers’ demise. When fracking happens in the public lands around Glacier, it can also pollute that pure water, spew toxins into the air, and destroy animals’ habitats. Glacier is a special place, and climate change is damaging it too fast already. We should fight to protect it in any way we can, and that means banning fracking.
National Pipeline Campaign Director
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is affectionately referred by locals as Chaco Canyon. For more than 25 years, it has been our family’s most special place to visit.
Inhabited between 850 and 1250 A.D. by ancestors of present day Native Americans, Chaco Canyon is not only beautiful, but mysterious. The valley was the center of a once thriving culture. The monumental architecture looms large over the desert landscape and can only remind us of what may have happened there and what became of these people.
We began going there when our son was only 3, and after all those years, we still have the same wonderment today. It’s a stark environment and it’s hard to imagine the struggle it must have been for early people to create such amazing stone structures.
New Mexicans like us are all concerned that this national treasure, already designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, be preserved from any kind of development. It is surrounded by Navajo land, public and state land, and is near extensive drilling operations in the four corners region of New Mexico that could severely damage these fragile, irreplaceable ruins. We must protect Chaco Canyon for its archeological, spiritual and historic significance to the cultural history of our world by banning fracking.
Everglades National Park
Halfway through the trail, there is a lookout tower. We climbed to the top of this tower and could see the winding waterways and mangrove forests stretch all the way into the horizon. Fracking in nearby areas would make this beautiful park look quite different. The water pollution and noise from drilling operations would undoubtedly harm the wildlife, and this seemingly endless wetlands would be marred with not only the wells themselves, but the influx of trucks and construction activity to nearby fracking sites.
That day, I saw folks young and old marveling at the wildlife and scenery. It is a place that I want to return to, and believe that everyone should get to experience it. To lose such a special place, especially to something as unnecessary as fracking, would be devastating. We need to ban fracking on public lands to ensure that places like this can be protected for generations to come.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Caitlin Seeley George
Online Fundraising Strategist
Living in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains means that there are plenty of great places to enjoy the outdoors and to go for a hike. But there’s something special about Rocky Mountain National Park that makes it worth driving an hour-and-a-half to explore. Maybe it’s the heard of elk that greet you at the entrance; maybe it’s the views of Longs Peak (one of Colorado’s 14,000’-plus mountains); or maybe it’s the memories of the times I’ve visited the park—driving with my family along Trail Ridge Road and snowshoeing with my husband on Valentine’s Day. I know how lucky I am to have a “local” national park.
While there isn’t currently fracking near Rocky Mountain National Park, there could be soon. The Bureau of Land Management recently announced that 20 parcels of land just five miles away from the park are up for sale to oil and gas developers. If fracking started near the park it would put it in serious danger—potentially polluting its waterways and tearing up the landscape, not to mention contributing to global warming.
Not only do I want to enjoy this park for years to come, but I also want future generations to have the same opportunities. My husband and I welcomed our first child this spring—Huck. Huck hasn’t been to Rocky Mountain National Park yet, but I know we’ll take him soon, and I hope that he’ll be able to visit it and hike it throughout his life. That’s one reason I work to stop fracking: so our natural places are kept safe for future generations to enjoy.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Amanda Claire Starbuck
When I was a child, we rarely could afford to vacation out of state, so many of our summer trips were to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Driving west from Bismarck, you see nothing but endless flat prairie and farm fields for a hundred miles. Then without warning, the prairie opens up into a breathtaking vista of buttes and canyons, colored red with scoria pits. The first European settlers called the Badlands “hell with the fires put out,” fitting for such a brutal and breathtaking landscape.
My family hiked the buttes, singing as we went so as not to startle any rattlesnakes. We rode horses through the park, crossing the Little Missouri River, coming upon herds of bison, elk, and wild horses. We camped under the vast North Dakota sky, learning the names of constellations and how to find the North Star. As an adult, I took my husband there on his first trip to my home. Three years later we married under that same North Dakota sky.
Today, driving west towards Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you spot oil rigs along the interstate. Bakken traffic clogs up the roads. Fracking is already spoiling the views and threatening the endangered plants and animals that call the park home.
Some day, I want to be able to take our future children to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I want to teach them to cherish the land, to respect the rattlesnakes and prairie dogs that call it home. To look out over the vast landscape and count the bison – not the oil rigs – dotting the horizon.
These are some of our favorite national parks. Fracking threatens them, along with many other parks and public lands. If you believe these lands should protected for future generations, not exploited for corporate profit, take action to ban fracking on public lands.