Wages Quieter War to Invade our National Parks
October 10, 2002
By Jackson Thoreau
While Bush publicly pushes to drill for oil in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and invade Iraq, he is
waging a quieter campaign to invade popular national parks,
including Arizona's Grand Canyon and Texas' Big Bend National
Park, with increased oil and mining exploration.
The plan is part of the Bush administration's energy policy
developed behind closed doors in 2001.
Key Republicans like Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and
Texas Gov. Rick Perry support Bush's largely-secret plan to
allow oil and mining exploration in or near Big Bend National
Park, the Grand Canyon, and other national treasures, sources
Cornyn, a Republican, is running for the U.S. Senate seat
being vacated by Phil Gramm. Perry, also a Republican, is
running for governor after he was appointed to that position
when Bush became president in 2001.
Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor and Democrat running for
Gramm's Senate seat, and Tony Sanchez, a Democrat running
for Texas governor, oppose Bush's plan to increase oil and
mining exploration in national parks, especially in Big Bend,
sources say. The Texas Senate race is very close in recent
polls and believed to be a critical one in the battle to control
the Senate leading up to next month's important elections.
The Bush administration's secret invasion of national parks
started in earnest earlier this year when 26-ton "thumper"
trucks severely damaged Utah's Dome Plateau desert near Arches
National Park as part of oil exploration approved by the National
Officials also plan to increase oil drilling in Big Cypress
National Preserve, which is next to Everglades National Park
in Florida. Big Cypress is the nation's only significant subtropical
marsh community, with a wide variety of cypress forests, prairies,
marshes, hammocks, pinelands, and mangroves. Endangered species
like the Florida panther live there.
The Collier Resources Co. already operates 10 oil wells in
the preserve, producing about 100,000 gallons of oil a day.
The company is asking the National Park Service for an additional
24 such sites.
Environmentalists fear such exploration could extend in and
near other national parks like Arizona's Grand Canyon and
Texas' Big Bend.
Oil and mining executives salivate at the thought of all
the oil and minerals believed to be within parks like Big
Bend and the Grand Canyon. The National Park Service's Big
Bend Web site admits that "few areas exceed the park's value
for the protection and study of geologic and paleontologic
Big Bend is among the most remote and rugged national parks.
The 801,000-acre park includes more types of birds, bats,
and cactus than any other U.S. national park. It contains
the largest protected area of Chihuahuan desert topography
and ecology in the U.S.
Mining is already allowed in Glacier National Park in Montana
and will be greatly increased in that park and others under
Big Bend, Glacier, and the Florida Everglades are already
among the ten most endangered parks in the country, according
to the National Parks Conservation Association, a Washington,
D.C.-based private organization.
Allowing increased oil and mining exploration in and around
the parks will cause them to deteriorate more rapidly, advocates
"The parks must be freed from the burdens of encroaching
development and air and water pollution," NPCA President Thomas
This is an issue that could resonate widely among independent
and swing voters this November who believe that we should
do all we can to preserve our national parks. We should hammer
the Republicans with this issue again and again, demanding
that they speak on the record about their position on increasing
oil and mining exploration in and near national parks.
Most Republicans are privately supporting such measures,
even though they might tell the public some non-answer to
evade the issue. A non-answer is similar to admitting that
you support further spoiling our national parks with oil and
We cannot let Bush and other Republicans get away with this
plan. Our national parks are our national treasures and should
be preserved for America's future generations to enjoy. They
should not be desecrated to make a few people wealthier.
Jackson Thoreau is co-author of We Will Not Get Over It:
Restoring a Legitimate White House. The 110,000-word electronic
book can be downloaded here
Thoreau can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.