Time to Drill?

Judith Lewis, who helped inspire this blog, takes a thoughtful look at the possibility of new oil wells popping up in the Los Padres National Forest. At the heart of her story is a warm, richly-detailed portrait of Al Hess, the man the Forest Service has put in charge of the decision-making process.

Hess, an outdoorsy type with a full head of gray hair, large-framed wire-rimmed glasses, and socks in his Birkenstocks, considers himself a “reasonable person.”

He is well-regarded by oilmen and environmentalists alike, including [Pamela Flick, of the Defenders of Wildlife] as a man who gives straight answers and isn’t beholden to any one side. “You couldn’t have a better man working on this project,” says Bruce Palmer, the former coordinator of the condor-recovery program for U.S. Fish and Wildlife. But Hess clearly misses the days before endless lawsuits and appeals followed every decision.

“Some people just won’t see the other side,” he griped. “I personally don’t have any use for those people, because they just stifle progress. There’s usually room to find a solution, if you really look at it. If people are reasonable, they can get there. But if you start out ‘I’m over here and you’re over there and that’s all there is to it,’ what can you say?”

Fair, open-minded people such as Al Hess make me proud to live in Ventura County. Our politics are diverse, but one thing is clear: Ventura county residents care deeply about the land we share.

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