HECHO is in Washington, DC today providing commentary on oil and natural gas venting and flaring. We believe that it is possible to have oil and gas development, as well as protect the familiar trails and favorite fishing holes that Latinos in the West hold dear. Do we want our precious landscapes to look like the Bakken in North Dakota? Development has to be done smart and managed in a balanced way. As we’ve seen more and more oil and gas wells near our favorite outdoor sites, those of us who spend countless hours outside can see the changes, in particular in the air with more haze and smog than ever. It’s encouraging to see the BLM taking the first step toward ensuring that my generation and our children, and our children’s children can experience the lands and heritage that make us who we are.
U.S. Census numbers indicate that New Mexico’s Latino population is 47%, and Colorado’s is 21%. Those two states are already heavily impacted by oil and gas development, and there are prospects for increased development there. Many Latino families have historical ties to those lands dating back centuries.
We hunt, we fish, we have traditional cultural uses of the land, and we are concerned that oil and gas development could adversely affect our enjoyment of and access to those lands for the foreseeable future. We are concerned about the health of those landscapes we use. With technology available to reduce unhealthy emissions from oil and gas flaring and venting, it only makes sense that those technologies should be required.
Moreover, it makes economic sense as well. Since 2009, New Mexico and Colorado alone have lost $78 million in oil and gas royalties that could better serve our communities than be burned or released into thin air. That recoverable oil and gas are being wasted on such a scale is unthinkable.
When many of us learn to hunt and fish, or learn to gather herbs or pigments from healers or artists, the ethic is always to use what you take and take only what you can use. That might just be a good way to think about development on public lands in general.