BLANDING — A prominent congressman from Utah is engaged in a desperate struggle with Native Americans to preserve the dwindling oil drilling lands of his ancestors—a struggle that hinges on one of the biggest public lands deals in U.S. history.
Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative proposes to protect large swaths of land in southeastern Utah from the millennia-long encroachment of indigenous peoples. The Republican statesman insists that area be set aside for its destined purpose: ceaseless, uninterrupted oil drilling.
“For generations, my forebearers spoke of a great and dry expanse, a priceless province of unmatched beauty and modest economic potential,” said Bishop, tearfully gazing at the woefully unblemished Abajo Mountains in the distance. “This place was, always and forever, meant to be drilled for a couple decades.”
Bishop has worked tirelessly for years to open up his ancestral territory to drilling, but he blames the local Native American tribes for obstructing his efforts. They have squatted in this culturally sensitive region since before Utah was discovered in the early Nineteenth Century.
But Navajo tribal executive Eric Descheenie believes his tribal coalition has been “generous” in their dealings with Bishop.
“You get to the point where you just shrug your shoulders,” Descheenie said. “We just want some concessions back to the tribes, just so we’re able to plan our future and have a homeland that’s viable.”