Obama Administration Greenlights Disastrous Gas Development Project in Pristine Wilderness
The Obama administration’s decision on March 16 authorizing nearly 1,300 new natural gas wells in Utah’s Desolation Canyon wilderness and other remote areas will degrade the pristine region’s air quality and hurt the state’s tourism industry, according to a coalition of environmental groups.
In approving the so-called Gasco development project, the Department of the Interior also rejected calls by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and tens of thousands of citizens from across the country to approve an alternative to Gasco’s proposal. This alternative would have allowed for significant development while protecting the department’s plan to designate Desolation Canyon as wilderness and reducing the overall footprint and impact of the project.
“Secretary Salazar is making the wrong decision to approve the Gasco project in a way that creates irreversible risks to Desolation Canyon,” said Peter Metcalf CEO/president of Black Diamond, Inc. “This decision is particularly disappointing in light of the fact that conservationists, and the EPA (with support of the leading companies in the American outdoor industry) endorsed an alternative drilling plan that protected the sanctity of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness, while allowing for robust drilling to occur on a huge parcel abutted to the proposed wilderness area. It is truly tragic that the BLM can't show some small degree of balance.”
The Desolation Canyon region is important to Utah’s desert recreation and tourism, a $4 billion industry that generates approximately $300 million annually in state tax revenue and supports 65,000 jobs.
The Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness is the largest unprotected roadless complex in the lower 48 states. Centered around the Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River, the area’s spectacular solitude and endless vistas are awe-inspiring. But now this remarkable place is once again in the crosshairs for destruction.
“It’s bewildering that Secretary Salazar—who has been such a strong advocate of conserving America’s great outdoors—would allow turning Desolation Canyon into an industrial wasteland,’’ said Sharon Buccino, director of NRDC’s Land and Wildlife program. “Desolation Canyon has some of the most stunning wilderness vistas found anywhere. It is no wonder that EPA gave this proposal its worst environmental rating possible.”
Gasco—a Colorado-based natural gas company—wants to drill nearly 1,300 new gas wells in the area, including more than 200 new wells in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness and gateway areas.
The administration analyzed two alternatives to the company’s proposed action, both of which would have barred drilling in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness and while affording greater protections for the Green River and Nine Mile Canyon badlands. But the administration ended up supporting the company’s plans to drill in all these sensitive places.
This approval comes at a time when natural gas prices are at near-record lows due to an abundance of gas supplies, and companies are idling drilling rigs in developed fields in the Uinta Basin.
“Desolation Canyon and Nine Mile Canyon along the Green River are some of the wildest places left in Utah, and they should be protected from drilling,” said Nada Culver, director and senior counsel of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “There are more than 1,000 approved BLM drilling permits going unused by oil and gas companies in Utah alone. We should take the most responsible approach to developing this area in order to preserve the spectacular wilderness-quality lands, the rare and extraordinary rock art, and the threatened plant and wildlife species in Desolation Canyon.”
The BLM itself has described Desolation Canyon as “…one of the largest blocks of roadless BLM public lands within the continental U.S. This is a place where a visitor can experience true solitude—where the forces of nature continue to shape the colorful, rugged landscape.”
Eastern Utah has experienced several years of record high winter-time ozone levels that is largely linked to oil and gas development. According to Gasco’s own data, this project will add to those unsafe pollution levels.
“Secretary Salazar’s approval of the controversial Gasco project stands in stark contrast to the agreements worked out over the past few years between industry, the Interior Department, and conservation groups over several natural gas projects in eastern Utah,” said Stephen Bloch, an attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “There is a proven, better way to bring parties together and produce a win-win solution. It is inexplicable why the Secretary is turning his back on this approach.”
“The Desolation Canyon region is one of the most iconic landscapes of wildness that Utah is known for," said Tim Wagner of the Sierra Club. “People from all over the world come to Desolation every year for the many outdoor experiences. To permanently mar this area over 200 new natural gas wells is a serious error in land management decision-making.”
For more information, click here.
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
- Your Guide to Talking With Kids of All Ages About Climate Change ... ›
- 7 of the Best Ted Talks About Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
- Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate ... ›
An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="24c36ab7f041f96875677ba1e9dc1944"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/CapeLookoutNPS/posts/3608024915884969"></div></div>
- 411 North Atlantic Right Whales Remain: This Solution Could Help ... ›
- Sixth North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead Prompts Concern ... ›
- First North Atlantic Right Whale Calf of the Season Spotted off ... ›
By Andrea Germanos
A new report released Tuesday details the "shocking" state of global land equality, saying the problem is worse than thought, rising, and "cannot be ignored."
- We Need a Green New Deal for Farmland - EcoWatch ›
- The Netherlands Can Feed the World. Here's Why It Shouldn't ... ›
- The Key to Saving Family Farms Is in the Soil - EcoWatch ›
- Urban Farming Booms During Coronavirus Lockdowns - EcoWatch ›