Background Reading. Read the following and answer the questions at the end. These questions will help develop your introduction paragraph.
The conservation of our natural resources
and their proper use underlies almost every
other problem in our national life. - Theodore Roosevelt, June 10, 1907
During the first 200 years of its settlement, America seemed a country with no
limits. When Thomas Jefferson finalized the Louisiana Purchase, he believed it would provide
the nation with endless resources. In the next 64 years America would add Florida, California
and the Mexican Cession, Oregon Country, and then Alaska. With all this land, America’s
natural riches would surely last forever.
But forever is a long time, especially when so many settlers saw the wilderness as a big candy store.
Fortunately, there were some farsighted people who realized that the candy store should not be
open all the time. In fact, there were some aisles in the store that should be
closed down. In 1872 Congress set aside a piece of land in Wyoming, establishing Yellowstone as the
country’s first national park. This was followed by the first forest reserve in 1891 and the first wildlife
reserve in 1903. By the time Congress and President Woodrow Wilson established the
National Park Service in 1916, there were 40 national parks and monuments to place
Flash forward to 1980. Events in the Middle East were making Americans aware of
How fragile the oil supply lines were. The United States was importing more than a
third of its oil. If oil from the Middle East were cut off, how would America keep its
One answer to the crisis was to use less oil. Some Americans did switch to smaller
cars. Another answer was to drill for more oil here at home. Indeed, the largest oil
field in North America had recently been discovered in Prudhoe Bay on the north
coast of Alaska. Prudhoe Bay would soon account for 20% of all domestic US
Given the concerns about oil in 1980, it is surprising that, in that same year,
Congress created a wildlife reserve just east of Prudhoe Bay. The Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was established to protect native plants and animals from
human interference. The refuge would cover 19 millions acres, an area about the size of
To protect the ecosystem, most of ANWR was declared closed to oil exploration.
However, the act did give Congress future power to allow drilling in a 1.5 million acre stretch
along the shore where oil reserves are believed to be. Since then, Special Interests
have battled in Washington about opening up the refuge to drilling.
In recent years, advances in drilling technology have made it easier to access oil
reserves in the US. Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is a process in which water,
sand, and chemicals are forced into underground rock, releasing deposits
of oil and natural gas. Many say that fracking is dangerous to both the land
and human health, while others argue that it has reduced US dependence on
In early 2015, with the oil crisis at bay, President Barack Obama proposed
legislation that would forever ban drilling in ANWR. However, it is likely that
Congress will resist any such bill, so the debate continues.