The destruction of Moab
February 12, 2002
As a frequent tourist to the Moab region of Utah, I was outraged to learn of the Bush administration’s brazen action in starting oil and gas drilling within two miles of Canyonlands and Arches national parks, two of this nation’s most cherished high desert parks.
I assume that the administration operates within its legal rights in unleashing 50,000-ton monster trucks to roam across the desert, shattering the solitude. But why precisely were these park areas targeted?
Does the administration consider exploration and drilling superior to all other uses? Are all other values – scenic, recreational or spiritual – to be subordinated to our unquenchable thirst for new domestic oil and gas? What about the moral obligation to leave this unique landscape intact for the enjoyment of future generations?
There are many less controversial drilling sites on public lands. Undoubtedly the tourist economy of the city of Moab will suffer greatly from the inescapable havoc inflicted on the neighboring public lands. In strict economic terms, even if oil or gas is found, the gains will be puny compared to the losses that will hit the Moab economy.
Interior Secretary Gail Norton showed her cynical disregard for the environment by claiming that exploration can be done “with minimal environmental damage.” This flies in the face of repeated urgings by the BLM to mountain bikers and four-wheelers to stay on roads to protect the fragile desert. And now the BLM, on instruction from Washington, is giving free reign to 50,000-ton monster trucks to despoil thousands of acres.
Perhaps the administration is trying to shock the many sincere critics of its energy policies into a dejected acceptance of these policies. So that the next time oil and gas operations are started in another natural treasure we will grin and bear it. Or is this the opening shot for drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge?
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I certainly hope not!