Once upon a time, on this planet we call Earth, there existed simpler and much less conscious plants and animals that that lived in an atmosphere which contained much less oxygen than in our present. As with all living things these organisms died. Then, over time, and throughout many other unique and novel creatures and eras, microscopic bacteria enzymatically worked upon these prehistoric organisms and successfully broke them down into something that would end up being more valuable to humans than gold or diamonds. Coupled with the action of geologic pressure and the correct evolutionary course of modern man, and countless international wars and economic dilemmas, the discovery of fluid minerals came into its short lived existance as man’s undercarriage of a progressive global supply chain and non-renewable combustible, and highly pollutant, natural resource. Hydrocarbons persist inbetween rock formations deep underground, beneath our beloved hot springs and other precious wildlife refuges, patiently waiting for the right investors, as in whoever has the most capital, to rip up the surface environment in a pell-mell of machinery to obtain our beloved expendable addiction.
Its important to note that oil and natural gas production does not seem so bad, morally and environmentally, when you drive home from work in the middle of January with full heat blasting on your rose frosted face while driving in your Chevy pick-up, then getting home to a 78 degree house while the outside temperature drops below freezing for the tenth day in a row. But then you put on the news channel to hear about how you are completely against opposed to new exploration for offshore oil and gas production off the Atlantic coast because you suddenly are worried about the game fish population, although you ate a tuna sandwich for lunch in which the meat came from a diminishing fish population. It is at this point that we, as in all of us who have the luxury of life in America or any first world country, should realize what Newton has passed along to anyone who completed 10th grade physics and may be able to recall his infamous 3rd Law.
My work, as part of this internship, and as possibly best example of combining ‘conservation’ and ‘land management’ together is being part of Oil and Gas Reclamation. I am part of the select few, as in only one other person works with me, to inspect oil and gas production wells across northern Montana to determine if energy companies have performed the designated reclamation and environmental protection actions that have been set forth upon them from BLM. Reclamation services can includes anything from planting the correct seeds, spreading and conserving topsoil, production water disposal and re-injection, reducing road erosion and traffic, and protecting wildlife habitat and nesting grounds. Personally, I do not do any of the reclamation work itself, but have the grand course of writing letters and calling up any number of energy and production companies to tell them that if they do not conform to written orders and reclamation standards we get to issue them a hefty fine. The most difficult part of my internship, besides having to constantly convince myself that I am doing the environment a favor by driving around a truck hundreds of miles a day to take a few pictures and look at soil quality, is mapping out hundreds of different well locations between as many as 5 counties across northern Montana and driving to them solo. I have covered more ground throughout this summer than I have throughout my entire life before this internship. So, my conclusion as of now is that it is impossible to have energy production with zero impact on the natural world, but reclamation is in place to ameliorate the negative short and long term economic and environmental effects produced by human desire energy. If we want to enjoy our cars and our heat and anything of the like we must also put back time, money, and energy to conserve the land we are changing.
Spencer Rubin, BLM, Great Falls, MT.