The connection between Standing Rock and Halloween Bowl

Given the warm and dry weather pattern, the name Halloween Bowl might have to be changed to Thanksgiving Bowl. That’s the place that local backcountry skiers could almost always count on a turn or 20 by Halloween. Not this year. Global Weirding? Maybe. Just an unusual blip in the weather this year? Maybe. Apparently we can enjoy the mountain biking for a few more weeks—and I sort of like that. We have seen the switch get turned on close to ski season before and if memory serves, those have been some pretty good winters. Let’s hope….

Now, if you read the story in this week’s paper about the human connections between Standing Rock, N.D. and Crested Butte, you can see the heartfelt efforts of people all over the world, including Crested Butte, to protect water. We have done it here with Red Lady and there are those who live in Crested Butte and the valley helping to do it in North Dakota. It is not easy work.

Water protectors at Standing Rock say they are fighting for the future. They say they are there because the proposed pipeline would pass through North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, a burial site sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux and the major source of drinking water for the community. Should the pipeline leak or burst, the impact could be devastating.

It seems obviously difficult for supporters of the Dakota Access Pipeline project to claim such pipelines are perfectly safe when just this week a major pipeline explosion rocked Alabama. According to news reports, a segment of the Colonial pipeline was undergoing maintenance on Monday afternoon when it exploded. Crews built an eight-foot tall dirt dam to contain burning fuel. That pipeline has already had five spills reported in Alabama in 2016.

That incident is not an anomaly. Pipelines leak. In several news stories all over the internet right now, it is clear that since 1995, more than 2,000 significant accidents involving oil and petroleum pipelines have occurred, adding up to roughly $3 billion in property damage, according to data obtained by the Associated Press from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It seems that a leak is becoming more and more not an “if” but a “when.”

From what I’ve read, this pipeline’s proposed route to transport fracked crude oil from the Bakken oilfield in North Dakota to a refinery near Chicago would cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Sioux reservation. As stated by Crested Butte’s Jeremy Rubingh, Reed Betz and Kirsten Atkins, who were up there last week, the pipeline protests have become increasingly intense over the last two weeks as construction has moved closer to the Missouri River and as police have aggressively responded to demonstrations with arrests, pepper spray, riot gear and army tanks. The tribal leadership’s attempts to block construction in court have been unsuccessful, and the pipeline operator, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, has moved forward at a rapid pace, building on lands that indigenous leaders say contain sacred burial grounds.

The elephant in the room is that no one can guarantee the safety of the water near the pipeline. In a piece in The New Yorker, Bill McKibben writes that “originally the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri near Bismarck but authorities worried that an oil spill there would have wrecked the state capital’s drinking water. So they moved the crossing to a half a mile from the reservation, across land that was taken from the tribe in 1958, without their consent.”

Look, I understand the need for oil and fossil fuels right now. We in Crested Butte live in a really cold place and rely on energy for life and work. But most people are coming around to the understanding we need to get away from such energy sources. They are not clean and easy anymore. They are contributing to climate change. The time has come to not spend billions of dollars on pipelines that transport dead dinosaurs across critical lands and water, but instead start spending billions on better utilizing and storing energy from wind and water and solar.

The national politicians, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, are much too quiet on this Standing Rock issue. Jeopardizing a source of water for a people who have constantly gotten the shaft in the last several hundred years is unseemly. Can the government ever give these tribes a fair shake? If this pipeline is too dangerous for the people in the state capital, it is too dangerous for the people of the tribe living on the reservation.

Shame on the law enforcement and prosecutors who are using extreme tactics to squash the demonstrations. Shame on the influential politicians for turning a blind eye. Thanks to those who are acting as “protectors” more than “protestors.”

Closer to home, where Halloween Bowl might have to become known as Thanksgiving Bowl, is our ski season related to the extraction, transportation and burning of fossil fuels? There are some who claim the warming of the planet is making the ski seasons shorter. I do know I am riding my bike longer in the fall and starting to ride earlier in the spring than I did 20 years ago.

Good snow can still happen in Halloween Bowl by the time trick-or-treaters hit the streets, but 25 years ago it was a given. Again—is it a stretch to see a connection between Crested Butte and Standing Rock? Not really.

Hopefully we don’t have to change the name from Halloween Bowl to Christmas Day Bowl.

—Mark Reaman

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