Former High Country News Publisher Ed Marston used to say that HCN is a lot like a kid who’s just learning to ski: We tend to stay close to the ground.
Our far-flung readers and freelance writers tip
us off to the stories in their back yards. Even our coverage of
what’s happening high up in Congress and the land-management
agencies comes from the perspective of people rooted in the West.
This grassroots approach allows us to see regional stories before
the big urban news outlets do, and it helps us show how policy
impacts communities and the land. But it has its downside, too.
Take the current rush for the West’s oil and gas.
As early as 1994, HCN was documenting the gas
buildup in southwest Wyoming. The scale of the boom began to come
into focus in the spring of 1999, when we sent intern Rebecca
Clarren to Durango, Colo., to report on the fight brewing between
gas drillers and local landowners who said drilling was trashing
their property and contaminating their water. That fall, another
intern, Tim Westby, drove to Wyoming’s Powder River Basin,
where the industry was predicting it would drill 15,000 wells over
Since then, we have told the story of a Wyoming
horse trainer who fought destructive coalbed methane drilling on
his ranch. We’ve written about ranchette owners in Montana,
who were shocked to discover that the mineral deposits beneath
their property had been leased to gas companies. We’ve
profiled local people and agency staffers who have resisted
irresponsible development, as well as government officials who have
altered or ignored the science that shows how damaging oil and gas
drilling can be.
We have done little, however, to look at
the larger picture — to explain the forces that are driving
this boom, or to consider how the West might profit from it.
That’s the reasoning behind this two-part series,
"The Boom and Beyond." In the last issue, HCN
Northern Rockies Editor Ray Ring followed the money flowing off the
gas fields and asked if Westerners are reaping enough from the
bounty. In this issue, Associate Editor Matt Jenkins writes about
the national and global forces that are spurring this boom, and
Jennie Lay, Allen Best and Laura Paskus look ahead at the
speculation and development yet to come, as oil and gas reserves
The bonanza is certainly here to stay
for a while. But as we wrote in the last issue, no boom lasts
forever. We have a responsibility to plan ahead for a life beyond
the oil fields. There is no better place than the West to create a
sustainable energy future. And there is no time like the present to
begin the task.
The stories in this series are still
rooted in the West, but as the cover of this issue suggests,
we’ve tried to look at them from a larger perspective. In
other words: The little skier has taken a trip all the way to the
top of the mountain, trying to get a clear glimpse of what lies
To read HCN’s coverage of
the energy boom, go to www.hcn.org/boom.jsp .
If you have
a story tip, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.