Likewise, those who want to protect the forest from heavy industry are just as committed, or so it seems. The forest, they say, isn’t for drilling.
America’s need for energy independence is strong. It’s a nationwide priority and a presidential election-year talking point. But the Talladega National Forest — with its historic beginnings and innate beauty — shouldn’t be forced to share acreage with oilmen trying to extract oil and gas from deep beneath the surface.
This forest must be protected.
This issue oozed to the surface again this week thanks to a story in Tuesday’s Star that highlighted the differences in opinion between the forest’s protectors and the businessmen who lined up earlier this summer to buy drilling leases for the forest.
Thanks to the efforts of many — laymen and lawmakers alike — the sale of leases was postponed in June so that the interested parties could learn more about the process. An August meeting involving the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management is tentatively scheduled. Thus, there’s every expectation that the potential sale of land leases in the Talladega National Forest will linger for months to come.
Our reasoning is simple: Both sides are entrenched.
It was telling to hear one of the qualified bidders for a forest-drilling lease explain the disappointment over the June sale’s postponement. Meade Hufford, owner of Energy Land Services, told The Star in an email that “these environmentalists waited until the last minute to raise concerns when they had months and years to lodge complaints. This is not the first lease sale for this National Forest.”
(Not that it matters, but should we assume that the phrase “these environmentalists” isn’t a thinly veiled euphemism?)
This tug-of-war between environmentalists and oil and gas companies seeking their next drilling site is an Alabama version of a uniquely American dilemma: Where to drill, when to drill, and for how long?
Whether it’s the waters of the Gulf Coast, the open expanses of Alaska’s wilderness or Alabama’s Talladega National Forest, preservationists are quick to defend their pristine areas, as is their right. Often, business deals and political twists combine to appease factions of both camps, if possible.
In this instance, America’s quest for energy independence — and oil and gas companies’ quest for profits — has landed squarely on northeast Alabama’s doorstep.
That doorstep — the forest — needs to remain what it is: a state treasure, unbothered by the nation’s urgency to drill.