This week, a news story came out about three potential oil wells – each of which would generate revenue for public schools – that are being planned on land near the proposed Bears Ears national monument. The story reported many fears about the oil wells from monument supporters. These fears highlight the need for a balanced approach to public land management, guided by the reasonable goal of multiple uses of our cherished public lands. Otherwise, we risk allowing our fears to get the better of us and stumbling into unbalanced and irrational decisions.
Some of the fears mentioned in the article are understandable. Fortunately, these fears are already being directly addressed.
For instance, one fear is potential negative impact on local water sources. The drilling technology being used protects against this outcome, which is acknowledged even by those with concerns. Additionally, two of the three wells require an environmental review from the federal Bureau of Land Management, which will focus on issues just like this one in order to protect local residents from problematic drilling practices.
On the other hand, some fears voiced in the article appear to be more hyperbole than reality. For example, some say that state officials want to turn the area into “an industrialized zone.” The fact is that there will be three modestly sized oil wells on a parcel of more than 13,000 acres. That is not something that equates to industrialization.
Another fear is that the drilling will “destroy” the tourism-based economy. But occasional oil drilling has been going on in the area for more than three decades, without destroying tourism. It seems unreasonable that more of the same would have such dire consequences.
What the oil wells would do, however, is put more money into public schools. And that is not something we need to be afraid of.