Birthday present for Theodore Roosevelt: Oil rigs galore

Secretary Zinke claims to revere great American conservationist Theodore Roosevelt, but his actions to drill all available public lands says otherwise...

As we mark the birthday of the Theodore Roosevelt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is poised to drill just outside the gates of the former president’s namesake national park.

The Bureau of Land Management wants to drill right on the boundary of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, a park dedicated to a great conservationist president who made it his mission to protect wildlife and public lands for future generations—and whom Secretary Zinke, whose agency oversees the BLM, claims to revere.

A 120-acre parcel of land bordering the north unit of the park would be available for oil and gas companies to bid on in March 2018. Despite grave concerns due to the tract’s proximity to the park, the Bureau of Land Management —under direct orders from President Trump—continues to push fossil fuel extraction above all conservation efforts. If oil and gas development abuts the park, noise, construction and pollution would be visible to visitors and disturb bison, coyote and other wildlife that roam the land.

This lease sale is part of an unsettling and growing trend of offering up land adjacent to parks for dirty energy development. Leases near Zion National Park and right on the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument are just two recent examples of the rush to industrialize at the margins of landscapes meant to safeguard our last bit of wilderness.

Pollution ignores park borders

Theodore Roosevelt National Park already feels the impacts of mismanaged fossil fuel leasing. According to a 2016 Western Values Project report, visitation drops at public lands with oil and gas production nearby. The park  has even devoted a section of its website to somewhat apologetically explain that the National Park Service cannot control what happens right outside its boundaries, so “Visitors may encounter signs of oil development near the areas surrounding the park.” 

Oil and gas development should not be happening on the borders of our national parks, “America’s best idea”. Light pollution, smog and contaminated water will not be deterred by park boundaries. If there were ever a spill in the recommended 120-acre oil and gas leasing parcel, it would flow directly in Theodore Roosevelt National Park through Squaw Creek Drainage, threatening landscape, wildlife and visitors.

Millions flock to our national parks each year, and it’s not to see starry night skies drowned out by methane flares or majestic landscapes peppered with oil rigs. It’s to experience a haven of beauty and peace amid a developed world, and it’s something that all Americans deserve to experience.

Trump to Roosevelt: “Drill, baby, drill”

In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt stated, "Of all the questions which can come before this nation…there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us."

"Of all the questions which can come before this nation…there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us."

President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and nature preservationist John Muir in front of Yosemite falls.
 

In the same spirit, this past August, over 300 veteran National Park Service officials signed a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke opposing new drilling near parks in the West.

It is apparent neither President Trump nor Secretary Zinke, are moved by such gestures. Instead, their administration consistently ignores the voice of the American people in favor of a ruthlessly pro-development agenda.

If this administration continues with its approach, protected landscapes will become isolated havens in a sea of unchecked drilling, mining and logging.  

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