Out With the Old West, In With the New
Photograph by Joel Sartore
Sixth-generation New Mexico rancher Linn Blancett moves what's left of his herd past a gas pipeline compressor station built on former rangeland. The Blancetts once ran hundreds of cattle on 32,000 acres (13,000 hectares) of private and leased federal land, which now has about 450 gas wells and nearly 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) of roads and pipelines. High demand for clean-burning natural gas—an abundant resource in the U.S. that's increasingly used to fuel high-efficiency power plants—has ignited a gas boom in the Rocky Mountains. Many Westerners welcome the infusion of cash, royalties, and jobs. Others see their way of life being changed forever.