Park rangers rally against drilling near national parks

Oil drill just outside Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota

Center for American Progress (see video below)

A group of park rangers are saying enough is enough when it comes to encroaching oil and gas drilling near our national parks.

In April, after hearing from fellow rangers in western parks about how drilling is infringing upon national parks, Ranger Ellis Richards created Park Rangers for Our Lands to urge the federal government to curb drilling near the parks. 

The Wilderness Society welcomes this development and plans to work closely with the rangers on halting sales of oil and gas drilling leases in national park areas as part of our work to ensure that oil and gas leasing is done responsibly and away from sensitive wildlands. 

"I think they will be a valuable new voice in the debate," says Nada Culver, Director of our BLM Action Center.

We have been advocating against drilling and fracking in these one-of-kind lands for decades, yet many continue to face the threat of oil and gas development. In addition to their indisputable natural beauty and history, we also know National Parks are crucial to local economies and therefore vital to America in countless ways. 

National parks at risk from drilling

  • Oil and gas drilling already happens within the boundaries of 12 national parks. The government has identified another 30 national parks and park units where drilling could be developed, including: Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park and Dinosaur National Monument; Utah's Arches and Canyonlands National Parks; California's Pinnacles National Park; and Montana's Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

  •  In addition, a number of national parks, including Montana's Glacier National Park, experience oil and gas drilling on adjacent lands.

What's happening to parks as drilling closes in?

  • Oil and gas drilling in or near national parks blights the landscape with visible wells, roads and infrastructure. This year there was a proposal to drill within sight of Roosevelt’s cabin on the Elkhorn Ranch in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

  • Roads and machinery near our national parks fragment wildlife habitat, sometimes closing off or hindering animals from traveling critical migration routes. Pinnacles' California condor population has just returned from the brink of extinction, but new drills could affect habitat, food sources, and migration. 

  • Drills also create water and air pollution in the area. The view of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings may be clouded by air pollution, for example.

Video from the National Parks Conservation Association shows how Theodore Roosevelt National Park could be impacted: 

The rangers from PROL say requests for oil and gas leases on western public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) should be denied if they are close enough to national parks to threaten them. For example, the BLM was criticized earlier this year for planning to sell leases near Colorado's Dinosaur National Monument, a place indeed so treasured that enraged complaints caused this plan to be withdrawn. 

“Our parks are under siege,” says Ellis. “We need balance. We know some of these solutions will be hard to find, but that doesn’t mean we can just give up. We need the BLM to work with its neighbors at the National Park Service and come up with common sense ways to protect the parks, the air quality in the region, and keep the West a beautiful place to visit.”

The map below illustrates threatened public lands, as highlighted in the NPCA's report on National Parks and Hydraulic Fracking:

Like us, The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is also calling for increased federal safeguards and has recently produced an excellent report spotlighting parks at threat from oil drilling and fracking, including: 

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
  • Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and Obed Wild and Scenic River.

The Wilderness Society has been working very closely with NPCA and now PROL on halting sales of oil and gas drilling leases in these areas. 

Please consider a donation to help us continue the work to protect sensitive wildlands from drilling. 

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