Aspenite’s film shows what’s at stake with energy boom
December 4, 2006
Aspen native Mark Harvey has spent a lifetime traveling the West, and lately it’s been disturbing for him.Harvey witnessed how the energy boom ravaged public lands in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and Montana. He thinks more people would be upset with the Bush administration if they could see what he has seen.So he made a film to document how future generations will pay the price of coaxing natural gas out of the ground long after the wells play out. Some of the West’s most sensitive lands are scarred forever; others are threatened. He hopes exposing the impacts will spur Americans, and particularly Westerners, to play a greater role in determining whether areas get drilled or preserved.”We’re at the beginning of an energy boom that could last for years,” Harvey said.Harvey is the director and co-producer, with Laurel Garrett, of “A Land Out of Time.” Numerous locals played a role in creating the film.
Harvey is showing the 55-minute documentary at film festivals throughout North America and to interested groups. It will be screened three times in the Roaring Fork Valley during the next eight days, including a free screening at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Wheeler Opera House. Wilderness Workshop, the oldest local environmental organization, is hosting the event.The film is about people and the lands they love. There are no environmentalists screaming bloody murder over the oil and gas industry’s tactics. Instead, Harvey concentrates on the stories of salt-of-the earth ranchers and outfitters whose lives have been altered, perhaps irreparably, by gas drilling.Linn Blancett described how roads to gas wells have carved his pastures into chunks of ground too small to support his cattle herds. Cows got sick from drinking water contaminated by drilling. His family has ranched in the area for six generations, Blancett says in the film, but he may be forced to sell off and seek a better opportunity.”Our ranch is gone,” says his wife, Tweeti. She ran George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in the Aztec, N.M., area in 2000. She figured the administration would help ranchers like her family if the president only knew how drilling was affecting them. She made a trip to Washington, D.C., in August 2002, to try to get the administration’s ear. She’s still waiting for relief.Gas development in the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico is more advanced than activities in the Piceance Basin of western Colorado and eastern Utah, or other areas in the Rocky Mountains. One speaker in the film describes the San Juan Basin as a giant spiderweb of roads and pipelines emanating from the wells, and the camera work documents that.
The film is so effective because it doesn’t dwell on talking heads. Sources get enough time to make their points, but then the camera pans to spectacular scenery from the ground and from airplane.Harvey’s film not-too-subtly asks if the fate that befell the San Juan Basin awaits lands that harbor other reserves – even if it means the destruction of special places.Carbondale energy analyst Randy Udall says in an interview in the film that 30 million acres have been leased in the West for gas development. Roughly 100,000 wells have been drilled since 1980. At least that many are planned in coming years.”Nothing is off limits to these guys,” Udall says. It’s one of the greatest land rushes in American history, he added.But “A Land Out of Time” isn’t a doom-and-gloom film. Harvey and his crew demonstrate how citizens in northwest Montana prevented widespread gas development in the Rocky Mountain Front, with the help of gutsy former forest supervisor Gloria Flora.
The film suggests that people can control the destiny of their lands by banding together to work on a common cause. Ranchers, hunters and environmentalists are interviewed about their unlikely alliances.Wilderness Workshop believes residents of the Roaring Fork Valley should be part of that alliance, even if gas drilling is a limited threat so far in their neck of the woods.”It’s central to our mission to make the public aware of what’s [happening] on our public lands,” said Wilderness Workshop’s Dave Reed. “This film put a human face on what’s going on.”In addition to the screening Wednesday at the Wheeler, there will be showings at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at Dos Gringos Burritos in Carbondale and at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Eagle County building in El Jebel.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.