Other views: Air in Theodore Roosevelt National Park less clear today
Theodore Roosevelt had bad eyes, but they were good enough to see the vistas of North Dakota's Badlands through crystal clear air when he came to the area in the 1880s. He would be hard-pressed today to find such pristine air quality in the natio...
Theodore Roosevelt had bad eyes, but they were good enough to see the vistas of North Dakota’s Badlands through crystal clear air when he came to the area in the 1880s. He would be hard-pressed today to find such pristine air quality in the national park that bears his name.
Several ongoing studies confirm the degradation. The latest by Colorado State University and the National Park Service found significant spikes in airborne pollutants. A review of the studies recently was written by Nick Lund, manager of the landscape conservation program of the National Parks Conservation Association. The association is dedicated to the protection, preservation and enhancement of the national parks.
The findings at Theodore Roosevelt National Park confirm what most thinking North Dakotans know: Unprecedented industrial-style oil and gas development is degrading the park’s air quality, and threatens to do more damage as the Bakken oil boom booms away. In a startling find, pollutant concentrations in the North Dakota park are higher than in other western rural regions, including heavily drilled western Wyoming, according to the NPCA’s reporting.
The damage is a result of oil-related activity, including gas flaring, emissions from drilling rigs and pollution from the thousands of trucks working in oil country. Pollutants include nitrogen oxide, black carbon, ammonium nitrite and ammonium sulfate - all contributing to a haze and soot pall that has become common in the North and South Units of the park and surrounding landscapes. Among concerns is that increasing pollutant concentrations will affect human health.
North Dakotans can write all this off as an acceptable cost of energy (economic) development. After all, nearly everyone in the state - east and west - is benefitting from the energy economy. But what they should do is weigh whether that cost is worth damaging, possibly permanently, an outdoor heritage that in large part defines North Dakota’s identity. The choice is not oil or the park. Rather, it is exploiting oil and gas smartly; and that means with minimal impacts to land, water and air.
The evidence to date suggests that is not happening.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.