A Snapshot of Drilling on a Park’s Margins

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The photographer Tony Bynum has mapped oil and natural gas drilling and support infrastructure on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which borders Glacier National Park in Montana.Credit Tony Bynum

More on the fracking front:

Two years ago, the photographer Tony Bynum, whose images of Big Sky country have graced the covers of magazines like Field and Stream, embarked on a different type of photodocumentary project. His goal was to create an interactive map to illustrate the oil and gas boom in his own backyard on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park in Montana.

Mr. Bynum hired a pilot and conducted aerial flights to map the drill pads, oil wells, pumps and power lines that snake along the Rocky Mountain Front there. He said he was seeking to “get the word out that one of America’s most pristine ecosystems is on the cusp of becoming industrialized.”

The Anschutz Exploration Corporation has been drilling exploratory wells for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, immediately east of Glacier National Park, for over two years.

Now a subsidiary of the company, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, is bidding on a contract to operate all concessions in Glacier National Park for 16 years.

That Anschutz could gain another foothold in Glacier has rattled environmentalists and concerned tribal groups and citizens, who already worry that the drilling next door could permanently alter the landscape. Glacier is home to three of the nation’s largest watersheds and to endangered species, including grizzly bears.

Xanterra is the nation’s largest park concessionaire. It manages lodges and retail operations in several national parks, including Yellowstone. Its parent company is owned by the billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, one of the wealthiest men in America. He is possibly one of the few able to afford the initial investment of $33 million required to take on Glacier’s crumbling infrastructure and run the park’s retail operations.

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