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Spills & Drills

A field report from Antrim County

June 1, 1997 |
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

It may indeed have been the haunting images and solitudes of Ireland that caused us to settle in Antrim County near the Jordan River. Certainly our Celtic reverence for forests and clean waters called us to photograph and celebrate these lands.

We were recent transplants here in Jordan Township, newcomers from Hartland in Livingston County in the midsection of the mitten of Michigan. As a retired photojournalist and writer-teacher, we had relocated, rebuilt our home and studio, filled our woodshed, and explored the endless lumbering roads with our children, friends, and Mollie the Mostly-Lab.

We shared memorable journeys through the comfortable silences of these then-pristine areas, where we heard coyotes, fed the wild turkeys, watched eagles soar, and silently rode our horses cross-country through to Dead Man's Hill. We realized a bounty of good neighbors and community resources. As traveling art fair artists and backyard conservationists, we had a revitalized enthusiasm for living this safer, quieter lifestyle, where the solitude and long months of snow provide hours for reflection, reading, photography, and writing.

These idyllic scenes were ours before the Great Antrim Gas War, still being waged at a relentless pace and scale.

Our "Eden out of time and space" was savagely shattered by the onslaught, the pillage and plunder of our unprotected lands, waters, and trust in the integrity of state regulators. Here the gas-guys bully and strongarm the citizenry at public meetings with aggressive threats and harassing cat-calls. All they want to talk about is their jobs and the supposed benefit to local and state economies.

Our devastated Antrim County now is a hot bed of irate landowners who may be forced-pooled, rumors of toxic spills, powerless politicians, loud processing stations, and confused citizens. Recently an area real estate salesman told us that land values had decreased 25% to 40% if the land was near a processing station or did not include the mineral rights!

If all the duplicitous deals are about money, then the citizens in Antrim County, and indeed, of Michigan, where mineral rights are separated from property rights, have lost much more than the Michigan Oil & Gas Association can ever make for their investors. Our forests and rivers, our lands and our minerals, (which include water, our primary heritage), have long ago been surreptitiously sold out from under us.

What you can do:

1). Contact your local officials and state representatives from all parties, and insist that a mineral rights clause be added to all real estate transactions (much like the "Lemon Law" for vehicles).

2). Stay informed by: visiting compressor stations and well sites, and talking with property owners who live near gas and drilling areas.

3). Call and write letters to regional media seeking full coverage of oil and gas issues, so that more people will understand what is at stake.

4). Protect the Jordan River Valley from oil and gas drilling--see the Action Alert on page 15.

5). Continue a resolute stance for citizens' rights for this and future generations.G

Susan and Jim Galbraith are Institute members from East Jordan.

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