Susan comes from New York, her husband, California. I had the privilege of meeting the Dunavans on the Nebraska farmland they have called home for over three decades. Unfortunately, they did not have the foresight during Reagan's first term to avoid settling in the path of today's proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Between York, NE, and McCool Junction, a few cows graze the native prairie. Quail, orioles and a few wharblers take flight. On these acres, 100 varieties of plants bloom all summer and into autumn.
We approach a white stake in the soil, "this is the start of the Keystone XL pipeline if they should get their permit that will be going through our property," says Susan. I now notice a number of these stakes pockmarking the field. "If TransCanada comes through, they have not promised to come back and return the land to its original state."
"It's been challenging to preserve the ecological diversity in years of drought. The whole idea of the tar sand oil pipeline coming through the heartland of the United States I find offensive. Because I believe we need protect our land and use our land, use the natural resources but do it in a responsible way."
An overgrowth of sunflowers shade the remnants of rusted train tracks. Nearby, Susan's husband cultivates rows of distinct apple trees like a music fan collects vinyl. It's clear that generation-to-generation, this land has provided a variety of uses, but this adaptability could be permanently devastated if tailored for the Keystone XL pipeline.
"York would be downstream if a spill happened, yet unless this pipeline directly affects them, even my neighbors think potential disasters only happen far far away."
"I think TransCanada thought if they came in and said 'we're your friendly neighbors from the north and this is going to benefit you' then everyone would just roll over. But it's not oil for the United States, it's oil through the United States. They are using us as a conduit."
Susan is confident about two things -- and I believe both. "Good stewardship goes far. And to me, this property here is priceless."
This land is not Susan's estate -- it is her duty. To leave this "little piece of heaven" in better standing than her family found it, for future generations and the native life that benefits.
Stand with Susan. Let TransCanada know that we need to use American resources in a responsible way.