As a Forest Supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service in the 1990s, I put a 15-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Montanaâ€™s Rocky Mountain Front. I made this controversial decision because the ecosystems on the Front are irreplaceably rich and diverse, and because Iâ€™d witnessed first-hand the cultural connections (in spirit, mind, and body) that countless people both near and far had to this extraordinary place.
The towering limestone cliffs, the wealth of wildlife, and the sheer wildness resonate deeply with the human psyche, and have done so for countless generations for over ten thousand years.
I thought Iâ€™d seen the worst of the oil and gas industry during that battle: its death-grip on public agencies, its demand for ever more leases, and its running roughshod over drilling regulations with impunity. But some years later I learned about an insidious new threat from the fossil fuel industryâ€”hydraulic fracturing, or â€śfracking.â€ť
In fracking, fluid is injected into underground shale formations to break them apart and release trapped natural gas (and increasingly, oil). Unfortunately, fracking fluid contaminates our water, fracked gas escapes into the atmosphere, and the breakneck pace of drilling for these low-quality wells wreak havoc on wildlife habitat and human communities alike.