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Fracking the Commons: Why Your Public Lands Are Under Assault by Oil and Gas Drilling

A significant amount of fracked wells are currently drilled on federal lands—that is, public land, our national commons.

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What’s at stake?

Our public lands are reservoirs for biological diversity and ecosystem services, but they’re also places to go be human: to connect with nature, recreate, and enjoy its beauty, meaning and solitude. These are all priceless attributes and irreplaceable by any human measures.

Ecosystem services are those things and processes that nature provides basically for free and without need of human intervention: filtering water; circulating carbon; providing food, fiber, shelter, and genetic diversity; producing soil, oxygen and biomass; cycling nutrients and water Just to name a few.  Note that without most of these things we’d be dead, or at least very, very unhappy. 

Yet these are the very goods, services, and experiences that are being trashed, sold off, compromised, and fracked to death. The fossil fuel industry brags about how much gas and oil they “produce,” but of course it’s nature that produced the gas, and they are depleting it. No one, ever, will get that fossil fuel, the embodiment of ancient sunlight, back to use it again. 

Public lands belong to us all.  It’s up to us to demand that they be kept in the best condition possible, their productivity, function, and splendor unspoiled. An irretrievable depletion of a limited resource is neither sustainable nor acceptable. So let’s not accept it.

The Obama Administration recently proposed new rules for oil and gas fracking on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The BLM's proposed rules are weak, at best, and pave the way for corporate profits at the expense of our American treasures and essential resources. The BLM is seeking public comments on the proposed rules. Tell them:  Don't frack public lands! The deadline for comments is August 23rd. You can sign the petition and  submit public comments here.

Back to the Front

The 15-year moratorium I imposed on fossil fuel leasing in the Rocky Mountain Front expired last year. But in the meantime, the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front has formed, and we have been very busy working to ensure the Front’s sustainability. We stopped a drilling proposal in mid-study. We did economic studies showing the Front was worth far more intact and undeveloped than being peppered with gas wells. We bought out existing leases.

And most of all, we convinced our Senators to make the moratorium permanent. Our Coalition, under local volunteer leadership, collaborated for four years to craft a piece of legislation that will keep the Front just like it is for the next couple of centuries – it’s working its way through Congress now.  The people led and the leaders followed.

Those unfortunate people who are within a few miles of the fracking tremors are doing more than taking notice, they’re taking action. With our health, our water, our land and our future at stake, action now is a very good idea.   It’s time to take back our land and ban fracking on public lands [9]!   

[2]  BLM Weakens Proposed Rule for Hydraulic Fracturing, Aaron Mintze, Earthworks. 

[3] [ The Fracking of Rachael Carson by Sandra Steingraber Orion Magazine September/October 2012 ]  

[6] [ Sand Mining Emerges as Another Fracking Threat, September 2011.]

[7] [ Fracking could lead to an 'earthquake domino effect' as it weakens fault lines deep in the earth's crust, scientists claim.  Daily Mail.  July2013.]

[8] The industry-friendly state of Wyoming is taking over a groundbreaking U.S. EPA investigation into the possible contamination of Pavillion, WY area groundwater by fracking. See more at:

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