Fracking in Northern Michigan

Hi everyone, this post is from Chad. I had trouble with my WordPress site (it wouldn’t let me put up a new post)- so Emily let me use her site! 

For years, the Mason Tract Area in Northern Michigan has been under the threat of oil companies. After months of deliberation and discussion between local fly fishers, naturalists, and the oil companies, that the area was deemed protected (read about it here http://sierraclubmichigannews.blogspot.com/2012/09/mason-tract-and-au-sable-river.html ). This was a huge victory for what seemed to be impossible for just a small group of supporters. But, should land be preserved for only the sake of something like sport fishing? Are pure aesthetics enough to prevent things like oil drilling and fracking? Does this article seem to glorify the naturalists and demonize the oil companies? Are there ALWAYS biases against oil companies in the news?

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About emjaffe

Student at the University of Michigan. Passionate about environmental and urban public policy and planning.

7 Responses to “Fracking in Northern Michigan”

  1. I think it’s important to remember that the Sierra Club isn’t a “small group of supporters”, but an enormous and well-funded national organization. I think pure aesthetics are not enough to convince authorities to disallow drilling in a wild area, but in this case I don’t think aesthetics alone won the battle. Although it was fought by a concerned group of anglers, it was in conjunction with a powerful and extremely savvy, very political environmentalist group as well. This article absolutely seems to glorify the naturalists, but it also isn’t published by a news organization that claims any sort of neutrality. It absolutely depends on who is publishing the piece, whether or not the oil companies are demonized or not. It is important to remember and this piece is decidedly biased and congratulatory of the Sierra Club.

  2. I agree with Caroline here. This is a piece on a victory of the Sierra Club posted by the group itself. As an environmental organization, readers cannot expect to fully hear the oil companies’ stand on the matter. The article did not do a great job of emphasizing the other reasons for protecting this area because it focused more on the “win,” but there are many reasons to be cautious with this area. The article briefly mentions that it is near an old growth forest, meaning it is one of three areas in the lower peninsula that has aged pine trees. Additionally, the Au Sable watershed spans a large chunk of the lower peninsula, so there is much more to this site than recreation. I noticed too how the article looks more at recreation and aesthetics than anything else. Perhaps if they shed more light on the other reasons why this victory was so important to them, their lack of input from oil companies would seem more warranted. With that being said, these fishermen did play a big role in the final decision, and they add a human connection to nature, which environmental movements can struggle with.

  3. I believe the article could have been much more powerful if it had given some sort reasons why this was a victory, other than going on about the history of the Sierra Club, this piece of land, and the other mumbo-jumobo that was included. The article never answered the question “WHY is fracking and drilling bad?” Many people are wholly uneducated about this topic, and the article fails to do the one thing needed in journalism–to inform the public. This article fails on that, and relies solely on the “victory” for the Sierra Club, without mentioning any other implications of this victory, for oil company, or even the Sierra Club. Do other people think that too often scope of an article is too narrow to do any justice to the topic?

  4. I think that if people went to the many natural land sites that they want to build on, preform oil drilling or fracking, they would agree that pure aesthetics should be enough not to. The problem is the oil drillers, fracking companies, and development businesses rarely all visit the land before hand. Our state has so much natural beauty to offer that is perfect the way it is and shouldn’t be messed with. These sport fishermen understand! Realistically though, pure aesthetics rarely works.

    This article was biased, but this wasn’t surprising since it was published by the organization that won. I think that this article should have focused more on educating readers on why it was such a big deal that they were able to protect the section of the Au Sable river instead of just glorifying the naturalists who won. We literally need our land and water to live and exist on this planet and unfortunately I think our population is eventually going to learn this the hard way if we don’t start making positive changes like these soon. Mother nature can only give us so much and we are too quick to use up our natural resources and pollute the land around us.

    I think lately most articles are biased against oil companies in the news, but this is because most of the time they are reporting on oil spills or mistakes the companies made which are affecting nature and wildlife.

  5. The article’s lede definitely shows where its loyalty lies in terms of bias. Obviously an article posted by the blog of the side that won is going to be singing its own praise. I think this article does a fine job for the intended audience. While I, and as others have expressed, would like to know examples of why this is a big victory, anybody who is following this blog probably already knows the type of victory and finer details to the situation. For individuals who follow this kind of news, I’m sure this article was a nice summary of what happened. I was a fan of the quote used for the kicker. It really set the tone for what the organization stands for and will continue to do. As for demonizing oil companies, I would expect it from an article on a site where the header says “Explore, enjoy and protect the planet”. I feel like there just isn’t much “good” that oil companies do to reach news. We only hear about disasters and rising gas prices because why would anybody report on charity donations that are not unique to just the oil industry?

  6. It was surprising that the main concern of the article seemed to be fly fishing and how it would be effected by the fracking. Pure aesthetics are certainly not the only thing that would be ruined once fracking would begin, but possibly the writer was trying to find what the people of Traverse city feel passionate about. Fly fishing is a powerful way to connect with nature, and taking that away from the people could turn on a switch to the fact that fracking would ruin their nature cites. The article twisted the Sierra Club to look like a small grassroots group, when in reality they are an enormous organization. This gave the story a much more heroic effect, that a small group of passionate people could overcome the oil company. Its not to say that isn’t accurate, but certainly not to the emphasis that the writer portrayed.

  7. I agree with Ryan that the article did a good job for the intended audience. It was clear and well-written with a sufficient number of inspiring quotes. I don’t think this came as a surprise to anyone and it’s probably why we aren’t supposed to include articles from nonprofits. Regardless, it was interesting to think about the function of this article; this victory is no doubt a reason that the Sierra Club is so huge and gets funding. They look out for the small guys and they do it effectively. In terms of teaming up with fly fishers I think that Nikki is right that it was a bit surprising, but to expand on the underlying impact that oil drilling would have on tourism wouldn’t be the meaningful standpoint the organization is looking for. With article like this I think you really have to look beyond the surface and consider who the main players are and what kind of stakes they have in the issue.

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