Oil drilling threatens solitude of national park
The park in question is Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. You’ve possibly heard recently that the city with the highest rents in America is Williston, North Dakota, because of the huge oil boom requiring a whole lot of workers, and there isn’t enough housing for them all right now. (And they’re getting a new mall, too.) What all these workers are doing is not a new story, though. North Dakota is going through an oil boom that has placed it second behind Texas in oil production in a very few years. Reports started coming out about this a year or two ago. The boom is centered not far from the north unit of TRNP, an area up till now mostly devoted to cattle raising. Oil drilling inside the park itself is not allowed, but the derricks and other artifacts of oil production are increasingly visible from within the park itself. This is especially true at night, when flares from the rigs (burning off natural gas that the facilities can’t handle yet) ruin the view of the night sky.
I worked in Medora, ND, just south of the south unit of TRNP, in 1982, and in 1990 I went back on vacation with a camera. Inside the park, the wind and the silence enveloped me, pushing the desolate landscapes and wildness into my spirit. Evidence of the human world was relatively scarce and often historic, such as Roosevelt’s cabins. It’s the sort of thing the future president himself sought and absorbed in his dark night of the soul in the mid-1880s.
People need to make a living, I understand this. It’s still unfortunate, though. It seems humans can’t go anywhere without needing to spoil any wildness that survives. I guess the next time I go to TRNP, I’ll have to be careful where I direct my gaze if I’m looking for an unspoiled vista.