If the Trump administration has its way, 1.6 million acres of land across Central and Southern California will be opened to oil and gas development. The lands include areas neighboring national parks, including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks; Giant Sequoia, Carrizo Plain, and Cesar Chavez National Monuments. Some of the lands are only two miles from Sequoia National Park. The lands also include areas near several national forests and private preserves.
The proposed areas include the most polluted counties in the country
In April, the Bureau of Land Management released its draft plan to open up lands in California to drilling. The plan would end a five-year moratorium on leasing public lands in California to oil companies. The lands available for oil and gas development, under the draft plan, are in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties
Some of the largest oil fields in the U.S. lie within the San Joaquin Valley, a big eight-county swath of land within the middle of California. Kern County, one of the Valley’s eight counties, is one of the top oil producing counties in the U.S. The San Joaquin Valley in California has one of the worst air basins in the country, according to the American Lung Association’s recent report. Much of the poor air in the Valley is attributed to its geography. It is an inland area surrounded by two big mountain chains. The report found that Kern County ranks number one for short-term particle pollution, number two for year-round particle pollution, and number five for ozone. Other Valley counties that would be opened up to oil production rank high in all three categories, including Kings County which ranks number one for year-round particle pollution.
Pollution from the San Joaquin Valley affects national parks
A report by the National Parks Conservation Association found that 96 percent of the 417 national parks assessed “are plagued by significant air pollution problems in at least one of four categories.” A majority (85) of the national parks have air that is hard to breathe at times and almost 90 percent of them have haze pollution. At 88 percent of the national parks, air pollution deposits into soils and waters. Climate change is a “significant concern” for 80 percent of the parks, but all parks are affected in some way.
Sequoia National Park is one of the four most polluted parks, along with Kings Canyon National Park. The other two most polluted parks, Joshua Tree National Monument and Mojave National Preserve, are in California. When the air at a national park is polluted, visitation decreases by at least eight percent, which harms local economies.
“Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon already experience some of the worst air quality within the park system, posing unprecedented threats to visitors and the natural resources that call these places home,: said Mark Rose, the National Park Conservation Association’s Sierra Nevada Field Representative, in a statement.
“Any additional fracking near these treasured lands and the more than one million acres spanning from the Central Valley to the coast could be disastrous for our national parks, surrounding communities and other public lands.”
How you can take action
There is something you can do. Sign the petition to the Bureau of Land Management asking the federal agency to not allow fracking in Central California. Let federal officials know how you feel about allowing increased oil and gas production in an already environmentally sensitive area.