“And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature, his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.” - Lyndon B. Johnson
Wandering through Wyoming, a state often referred to as God’s Country, I feel calm as balance and tranquility overcome me. It’s hard not to fall in love with those thousands of miles of unspoiled acreage. Winding roads lead me into oblivion, criss-crossing between towering ranges of mountains through desertscapes and unmoved oases. As nature beckons me, I answer it’s call and move ever-forward into an abyss of beauty and awe; into Eden.
Millions of species call Wyoming home and the fragile ecosystems in which they live thrive here. For the last 150 years, humans, too, have answered nature’s call and laid claim to this place. In May of 1862, the Homestead Act brought more than 4,000,000 Americans west, many of them to Wyoming. Those settlers were looking for large expanses of land to farm, ranch and raise their children. However, in 1883, 20 years after the first settlers moved West, Mike Murphy drilled the first oil well in the State east of the Wind River Mountains. This newfound discovery prompted a wave of energy and mineral extraction that persists into the modern day. Wyoming currently produces more than 190,000 barrels of crude oil and 4,000,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas, every single day. While the economic prosperity is much adored by the citizens of Wyoming (the state made nearly $600,000 in tax revenue in 2014 from mineral extraction), this industry has led to widespread environmental and health problems such as deadly ozone clouds created by dangerous volatile organics oozing from a city of gas wells, the first proven case of contaminated water from drilling operations, decimated livestock populations and chronic neurological diseases. The rush to extraction in Wyoming has destroyed the lives of many who call this state home.