Pause, baby pause |

Pause, baby pause

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Drilling for natural resources in the national forest is something we have always condemned. But with high pressure on our Congress to find alternatives to Middle East and other foreign energy sources, the eyes on oil in the shale on the Western Slope are growing.

This is why a recent proposal by the Bureau of Land Management was so surprising. After a lawsuit by environmental groups challenged its 2009 environmental impact statements regarding several drilling sites in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, the BLM took, according to its executive summary, “a hard look at whether it is appropriate for approximately 2 million acres to remain available for development of oil shale and 431,00 acres of public land to remain available for development of tar sands.”

While there are no guarantees that the drilling-on-public-land momentum will reverse or even lose momentum, it is a sign that environmental action can force the government’s hand to actually investigate the environmental effects of drilling, versus the “blank check” approach it seemed to operate under the past century or more.

As with any land-use issue, the alternatives and options are complicated, and we encourage those interested to look up the BLM’s decision and read the details. Yet, at some level, it is worth all of our attention. While energy drilling going on in Garfield County may seem like it is occurring in another universe, in reality, it is at Aspen’s doorstep and, the BLM makes it painfully obvious that it still regards energy and mineral development as one of our public land’s primary responsibilities.

Yet the BLM’s recent decision gives us hope – albeit, a cautious dose at that. At least now we know that the time, effort and ability of environmental groups to step in front of big oil is worth it and can make a difference. It may not change the long-term trends we are seeing, but it will certainly give hope to groups like the Thompson Divide Coalition to keep up their often thankless work. In the end, we believe our nation can achieve energy independence without littering our forests with pipelines.

And maybe, just maybe, the BLM is starting to agree.

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