Winkler: Living in a northern Colorado ‘sacrifice zone’

Author: Bob Winkler - April 21, 2017 - Updated: April 17, 2017

Bob Winkler
Bob Winkler

It’s important to remember that mineral extraction has never been safe or without risk but with extreme methods it’s become even more risky.

Running Weld counties economy on mineral resources that use and release toxins is an unavoidable part of extraction and requires a “sacrifice zone,” an area labeled less inhabitable after being poisoned in the name of profits.

Previously, sacrifice zones were rural areas, poor towns, etc. where they could be taken advantage of in the name of progress. People who live in these locales had little choice and lacked political strength to combat exploitation.

Through the influence of the privileged these areas were designated as wastelands, poor economic areas and the like. If you were fortunate to live outside these areas, you felt fairly safe that your region would not be sacrificed to enable the extreme extraction by the fossil fuel industry. This continued so long as the extraction occurring inside these sacrifice zones was kept at a safe distance. Up until the past several years, this remained true.

But recently the frenzy of extreme extractions from tight-rock formations and their resulting windfall profits to industry have changed the landscape. The sacrifice zones have now expanded into populated areas, putting them at risk. They are swallowing up communities and neighborhoods once thought safe from the devastation. With this increased activity many more accidents occur because of the development on steroids.

No place is off limits in the frenzy for dirty fossil fuel extraction. The industry is poised to drill anywhere regardless of impact on quality of life, pollution, health, the environment and property values. They are drilling on property once regarded as safe, i.e., church, school and even gated community properties.

This is waking up many of the influential neighborhoods once believing they were exempt from such an assault on their home life. How is it that I live in a beautiful community where my family is being put at risk without consulting me? How can poisonous substances be put into the air where I live? How is it that our elected officials are protecting mineral owners and not surface owners by supporting pro-active mineral extraction? When the industry comes into our communities and neighborhoods and ruin our roads, create noise 24/7, release toxic emissions and spill poisons in our soil 1,000 feet from our homes, it becomes personal.

Thomas Paine once wrote “It is the good fortune of many to live distant from the scene of sorrow.” Guess what? The distance is closing, and soon no one will be safe from the activities of this poorly regulated industry. This type of pillaging once was reserved for Third World countries with profits going to the “civilized world.” It’s very clear that the pillaging has come home as we read and hear about the mounting negative effects often while the few are earning billions.

There is no longer an illusion of discrete sacrifice zones. We all will be impacted by the reckless behavior. People in less influential areas will be effected first.

While some live a distance from the extreme extraction in Colorado and feel somewhat isolated, they will be impacted by the toxic emissions, contaminated water, health impacts, diminished property values and extreme weather — now and in the future.

The sacrifice zones created by fossil fuel dependence are encompassing the Earth. We will eventually all be living in a sacrifice zone as Weld County is.

Isn’t it time for all the people of Colorado to be represented by our elected officials for their rights to clean air and water, good health, the environment and quality of life?

Bob Winkler

Bob Winkler

Bob Winkler is a certified risk management professional who has published numerous articles and papers on subjects of disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation and planning. He is active in the Plains Alliance for Clean Air and Water, Weld Air and Water and Greeley Communities United. Winkler is a resident of Greeley, Colo.


  • Mark Pappas

    April 23, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Keep up the good work. Thank you.

  • Bill Monroe

    April 24, 2017 at 8:19 am

    A lot of scary rhetoric from Mr. Winkler, but his opinion piece is frightfully short on facts.

Comments are closed.