The view from above

  • Greg Hanscom

 

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 20 years.

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 dwindle worldwide.

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 ahead.

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 [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!