Energy exploration has been part of Western landscape and culture for decades — but it seems the thrill of the drill may finally be wearing off. As the Bush administration pushes for further exploitation of Western resources (such as coal-bed methane mining in Wyoming and Montana and oil and natural gas drilling in the Rocky Mountains), ranchers, farmers, and local governments are starting to push back. Delta County, Colo., has sued the state’s oil and water commission over a proposed natural gas project that could harm local water supplies; officials in Gallatin County, Mont., are trying to prevent gas exploration near scenic Bozeman Pass; and a group of ranchers in northern New Mexico (including a former campaign coordinator for President Bush) locked gates on their property to prevent energy companies from entering. The region has traditionally welcomed the economic benefits of natural resource development. Now, such development is clashing with other values, ranging from the desire to preserve unspoiled vistas to the desire to preserve high property values. Industry officials blame the shift in attitude on national environmental groups.
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