Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior during the 60’s and generally considered to be the best of the last 50 years, is none too thrilled with what Junior’s pervasive pandering to the oil industry is doing to his native West.
SANTA FE, N.M. — A crucial struggle over land stewardship is taking place south of my home on the Greater Otero Mesa, a 1.2-million-acre stretch of grassland that looks pretty much the way it did when Coronado explored the region almost 500 years ago. As much as half of Otero Mesa still qualifies for protection under the landmark 1964 Wilderness Act, which was enacted when I headed the Interior Department under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. This law prevents industrial development on designated federal land “retaining its primeval character and influence.”But the Bush administration, determined to ransack public lands for the last meager pockets of petroleum, has turned my old department into a servile, single-minded adjunct of the Energy Department. It is intent on opening Otero Mesa and other wild lands to oil and gas exploration under the guise of reducing our ever-growing dependency on imported oil.
Here in New Mexico, where citizens cherish sublime landscapes, the administration’s attack on the mesa is a heated issue. Gov. Bill Richardson has been joined by lawmakers, environmental groups and thousands of citizens in opposing drilling on Otero.
This crusade is part of a wave of public resentment across the West over the dark chapter that President Bush and his aides are writing in the history of the American conservation movement. From California to Colorado, Montana to Arizona, drill rigs pockmark the West’s wild places, licensed by a White House that views opening of the nation’s last untrammeled country to private development as a prime economic priority.
The real Bush Doctrine seems to be: If it don’t make a profit for one of my cronies, it’s useless. The BA doesn’t recognize any social good except in the piling up of private profits, and it doesn’t seem to matter what gets ruined or who dies in the process. America and its people are just resources to be exploited by the oligarchs and corporations until there’s nothing left to exploit, and then what? One more Bushian term and we’re likely to find out.