A recent op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune raised concerns yet again about the impacts of oil and gas developments at Big Flat in Grand County, near the boundary of Dead Horse Point State Park. Jacques Hadler, the manager of Moab Cyclery, complained that a new bill introduced by Utah Congressman John Curtis “is putting Moab’s reputation at risk by fast tracking permits to drill right next to Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands National Park.”
Keshlear observed that, “Skiers, mountain bikers and hikers who come to Park City, one of Utah’s big tourist destinations, pay a hefty price to recreate despite a ‘viewscape’ tainted by abandoned silver mines. Has the viewscape of Moab and Spanish Valley from the north, the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project, dampened tourism?”
In fact, for more than twenty-five years environmentalists have opposed the development of oil and gas wells at Big Flat. Oil and gas wells have been a common sight there for decades. In 1991, Moab’s Jean Eradley wrote an excellent history of an even earlier oil boom for The Zephyr.
Four years ago, like now, efforts to expand the operation were met with protests and resistance. The Salt Lake Tribune reported:
“The Bureau of Land Management should stop the expansion of a rapidly growing oil and gas field near Moab until a broad environmental review can assess its impact on scenic Big Flat, an area vital to Grand County’s tourist economy, environmentalists argue.”
The fear among environmentalists, then and now, is that the presence of oil and gas infrastructure will deter and divert tourists away from the Moab area, whose economy depends on an ever-expanding and insatiable recreation economy.
But has oil and gas development affected the numbers of tourists to visit nearby Dead Horse Point? According to park statistics, visitation has actually grown dramatically. Here are the numbers…
2017……………560,783Whether oil and gas expansion adversely affects the environment or not, so far the threat of it has had no effect whatsoever on the number of tourists who drive by Big Flat on their way to Dead Horse Point.
As tourism numbers reach almost incomprehensible levels, one has to wonder if a few more pumpjacks might help slow down the tourist transmogrification.
Jim Stiles is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr.
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