Back on April Fools Day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it was waiving nearly three dozen laws and regulations in order to extend the wall it’s been building along our border with Mexico. The federal, state and local laws that were bypassed include legislation that protect the environment and our health, sacred Native American lands, and the rights of property owners. As a result, a remarkably broad coalition has formed of people who oppose this enormous waste of money and trampling of legal process, from the expected environmentalists to cattle ranchers to mayors of many border towns in the U.S. Despite that, the issue has gotten little attention in the rest of the country. To read more about the Border Wall and the environmental havoc it is wreaking, check out this blog post from NoTexasBorderWall.com.
I am thinking about the fact that the DHS announcement was made on April Fools Day because another announcement with wide-ranging environmental impacts was recently made on Election Day. While the nation’s attention was almost unanimously focused elsewhere, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that on Dec 19th, more than 50,000 acres of land within close proximity to three National Parks in Utah will be auctioned off for oil and gas drilling rights. The three national parks affected are Arches (home of the iconic and aptly named “Delicate Arch”), Canyonlands, and Dinosaur.
The top National Park Service official in Utah, Cordell Roy, says that his department wasn’t even notified before this announcement was made. Needless to say, the National Park Service objects to what some are calling a Bush administration “fire sale” for the oil and gas industries. While the BLM claims that this is simply business as usual and is surprised by the protest, conservation groups say that never before has the BLM “bunched drilling parcels on the fence lines of national parks.” And keep in mind that while the high price of gasoline may tempt us to consider putting part of our national heritage at risk, the Energy Information Administration says that Utah has only 2.5 percent of the country’s known natural gas reserves and less than 1 percent of its known oil reserves. Drilling around our national parks will not decrease oil prices.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence that this announcement was made on the afternoon of Election Day. But with the bustle of the winter holiday season getting into full swing, we might want to keep our eyes and ears open for additional holiday surprises.