Agitate, America!: Preserve Starved Rock State Park!

Nancy Churchill

By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary

If you have not enjoyed the serene beauty of Starved Rock State Park, one of Illinois’ Seven Wonders, recently — bald eagles circling over the Illinois River, frozen winter waterfalls, the awe-inspiring silence — you may want to plan a visit before it’s too late.

Mississippi Sand, LLC, is days away from sealing a deal that will turn the land adjacent to the east entrance into a giant fracking sand mine. To say that the terrain outside this sacred Native American site may soon look like a “moonscape” would be an insult to the moon.

The mined silica sand will be used in other states for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a method for extracting natural gas from underground shale deposits. It will be a 24/7 operation.

Noise, dust and light pollution will distress wildlife, dramatically reduce tourism, and destroy 73 acres of wetlands at the mine site.

In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency ignored serious environmental concerns such as water quality, fish kills and acid burns around sites such as this, and though the full ramifications of that fatal decision are not yet known, indications are the consequences will be catastrophic.

Astonishingly, fracking was exempted by the U.S. Congress in 2005 from any regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act!

Defenders of fracking claim we must have it to get off foreign oil and create jobs. But this is not a story of jobs, as no number of jobs are worth the complete ruin of pristine and sacred natural places.

Nor is this fight really just about Starved Rock. If mining is allowed on the land around this park, the domino effect will have fracking sand mines popping up across the entire state.

Nor is this about getting off foreign oil, nor really about energy at all. We’ve known for decades that our addiction to fossil fuels is a doomed strategy. We can choose to create sustainable clean-energy jobs instead. Had we done this decades ago, our land and lives would not be in jeopardy, and we would not be having this conversation.

No, this is just one more tragic case in a centuries-old struggle of money trumping life on the planet.

It’s about finally deciding to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. It’s about Congress establishing effective oversight of fracking on the federal level under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It’s about citizens demanding, “Enough! I won’t cede my quality of life so that natural gas companies can extract enormous profits from the ground under my home, destroying wildlife, waterways and air quality in the process!”

Because state and federal legislators won’t protect our rights on their own, we must make them do it. Starved Rock State Park belongs to us, our children and grandchildren, unless corporations can persuade legislators to turn it over to them.

Visit and tell Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) why the permit should be denied, to preserve Starved Rock State Park for future generations to enjoy forever. Or, prepare to kiss it good-bye.

Highlights of Nancy Churchill’s life are growing up in Congo, Africa, until she was 15, racing stock cars as an adult from 1976 until 2001, and writing as a liberal political junkie since the early ’90s. She lives in Oregon, Ill.

From the Nov. 7-13, 2012, issue

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