Guardians of the Ogallala

The battle over the proposed 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline has raged across the political corridors of the nation’s capitol. President Obama rejected the tar sands pipeline yesterday, stating the artificial deadline imposed by Congress did not allow enough time for a careful review. Still, the oil industry and its allies vow to find other ways to push the project forward.

But in the pristine prairies of the Great Plains states, ranchers on the frontlines have been equally engaged in the fight.  At stake is the country’s most important groundwater resource—the  Ogallala Aquifer—which provides drinking water to residents in eight states and is the sustaining force for much of America’s breadbasket.

A fierce guardian of the aquifer is Bruce Boettcher, a proud resident of the Sand Hills region who provides 80,000 pounds of organic beef to market each year. Boettcher and other Nebraskans say the proposed tar sands pipeline is way too dangerous a risk to the Ogallala, an aquifer that bubbles to the surface in places and could be devastated by a pipeline spill of corrosive tar sands oil.


NRDC Journey OnEarth producer Roshini Thinakaran and cameraman/editor Zak Wenning traveled to get a first-hand look at this national treasure and to learn why ranchers and residents in the Cornhusker State are holding firm against a Canadian oil pipeline that could threaten their land and livelihoods.