Oil Drilling Threatens Utah's Famous Spiral Jetty and Great Salt Lake Wetlands

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Photo © Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970Utah has been a second home to me for nearly 20 years. In fact, as I write this, I am looking forward to spending a week at our house near Park City for the upcoming holiday. The state has also long been home to silver mines that continue to taint the local water supplies and force residents to install double osmosis filtering systems just to have potable water.

Public lands within the Utah region and elsewhere have been a longtime target for oil drilling and government granted leases but always with the understand that wilderness and public lands in close proximity to national parks were typically off limits. That is, until the Bush administration decided to green light drilling near national parks in Moab, Utah in 2002. Although park scientists protested that the national parks could take decades to recover from the shock waves caused by local oil derricks, the administration claimed that parks would “barely notice changes,” according to a New York Times article published on February 8, 2002.

In February of this year, proposed oil drilling in the Great Salt Lake region was met with great resistance from residents and local and national environmental groups, such as The Friends of the Great Salt Lake and the Wilderness Conservancy who at the time I wrote this had received nearly 10,000 signatures in protest of the drilling from around the world. Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!

By allowing drilling in this area, we threaten to harm and destroy wetlands that house over 6 million birds during migration season and more than 250 bird species that call the Great Salt Lake region home according to the Nature Conservancy. The wetlands are important to national scientists and the local economy, serving as one of the top places in the nation for bird watching and eco-tourism. Drilling would also potentially damage the “Spiral Jetty,” one of the most famous examples of the Land Art movement developed by Robert Smithson in the 70’s. A recent New York Times article discusses how the Dia Art Foundation is involved in talks to protect Smithson’s masterpiece and stall drilling in such close proximity.

Given the current oil crisis, US residents may wonder why we aren’t becoming more independent and drilling at home. In reality, oil prices are not entirely being driven up by supply/demand issues. I would highly recommend that those people spend more time educating themselves about the economic and market factors involved by visiting our sister site, Gas 2.0 for more information on the politics behind the high prices at the pump as well as read up on the dangerous environmental repercussions from drilling in our backyards.

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