Some trade-offs are hard. Whether to go with a high-deductible health insurance plan and risk the $5,000 to $10,000 charges should you get hurt or go with higher monthly payments and have less risk, is just one example.
Others are easy, such as not spending money on a new computer game when you are having a hard time making rent or food bills.
The Bureau of Land Management is faced with easy and difficult choices in how to manage our public lands on an ongoing basis. Sometimes, it chooses the computer game – the momentary – over the rent – the basic.
The cultural and archaeological treasures of the Four Corners region are world-renowned. Mesa Verde National Park and Chaco Culture National Historic Park as well as Canyons of the Ancients, Canyon de Chelly, Aztec Ruins, Hovenweep and Chimney Rock national monuments are officially recognized as important heritage areas.
For many of us, the cultural and archaeological legacy of the region is of great personal interest. For many native people, it is much more than just interesting, it is part of their current and ongoing lives, part of knowing themselves.
On a purely economic basis, these areas are of huge importance to the present and long-term economy of the region. People come from all over the globe to visit these sites. They are a source of a stable and sustainable flow of money to local communities. They are truly part of the region’s capital.
The trade-off is whether to allow oil and gas, or other developments, that will diminish these areas. Currently, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients, and Hovenweep are all under serious danger of poor BLM decisions. The leasing of lands for oil and gas next to Mesa Verde and Chaco is moving ahead; the oil and gas development in and around Canyons of the Ancients and Hovenweep is an ongoing fiasco.
This is not a question of whether there should be any oil and gas development on public lands. In the Farmington Field Office, which covers northwestern New Mexico, more than 90 percent of the land is currently leased for oil and gas development. In order to protect Chaco, a proper balance would not lease it all.
The choice to trade international treasures for a bit of fuel is unwise to say the least. The amount of oil or gas that could be developed by all of the proposed leases by Mesa Verde or Chaco will not affect our energy demand but for a moment at best.
The BLM is choosing to buy a candy bar (a tiny bit of energy) in exchange for having a college education (a lasting source of income).
It is a real example of the old fable of the golden goose. You can kill the goose and have a small lump of gold, or you can take care of the goose and have a continuing supply of golden eggs.
Let’s hope the BLM changes its current plans and acts to protect our region’s rich legacy.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Dan Randolph is executive director of San Juan Citizens Alliance.