The Center for American Progress released a new video today revealing how North Dakota’s oil boom is threatening Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park is located in the heart of the massive Bakken shale play, which has recently become one of the most productive oil fields in the United States thanks to improved technologies like hydraulic fracturing.
As the video shows, oil wells are creeping closer and closer to the park’s boundaries, and drill rigs and flares can even be seen from within the park itself. Already, visitors are discovering that the national park’s three units are becoming islands in a sea of industrial development — from oil trucks on roads leading to the park to intrusive noise levels that ruin the park’s natural quiet. Soon, there could even be drilling within the national park itself, as it is one of 30 national park units that could have drilling within its borders in the future.
There is tremendous irony in the oil and gas industry tarnishing the very park that honors our greatest conservation president, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt spent a few formative years on ranches in the North Dakota badlands, which he credited with giving him the depth of character he needed to be president.
Winthrop Roosevelt, Roosevelt’s great-great-grandson who narrates the video, also today has a piece in the Daily Beast about his e indignation towards drilling so close to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. As he puts it:
If you are outraged like I am that a national park could be sacrificed in the oil and gas industry’s quest for selfish profit, it’s time to take action.
The North Dakotans featured in the video are quick to note that they are not against oil drilling but argue there needs to be a better balance between drilling and conservation. As Roosevelt himself put it, “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”
We can have both energy development and conservation on our public lands. But right now, the industry is winning: over the last four years, 2.5 times more acres of public lands have been leased to oil and gas companies than have been permanently protected. This must change. As former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt stated in February, President Obama and Congress should put conservation of our public lands “on equal ground” with energy development. One step forward in this direction would be to ensure that Theodore Roosevelt National Park is adequately protected from the consequences of oil drilling.