« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

On booms and their remains

 

Click here to see a full gallery of Sarah Christianson's photographs of the Bakken oil boom.

In 1973, during North Dakota's second oil boom, then-Gov. Art Link declared, "When we are through with that and the landscape is quiet again … let those who follow and repopulate the land be able to say our grandparents did their job well. The land is as good and, in some cases, better than before."

Forty years later, another oil boom is underway in the Williston Basin, this time fueled by new drilling techniques. Oil companies are working at breakneck speed to drill thousands of new wells in North Dakota, my home state. They're pumping out more than a million barrels per day, an eightfold increase since 1981.

I've begun a photography project to document what remains of the previous booms and record the changes the region faces today. Experts predict that oil extraction here will continue for another few decades, but no one knows for sure when the industry will pull out, or what our lives here will be like once the landscape is quiet again.