Documentary on controversial Utah strip mining coming to Moscow

click to enlarge People protest tar sands strip mining in Utah in 2013. - PHOTO STEVE LIPTAY
Photo Steve Liptay
People protest tar sands strip mining in Utah in 2013.

The director of an award-winning documentary about plans to strip mine parts of the Colorado River watershed in Utah will visit Moscow Monday, Feb. 23.

"Last Rush for the Wild West: Tar Sands, Oil Shale and the American Frontier," will be shown at 7  p.m.  at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second St. in  Moscow.  Director Jennifer Ekstrom, will introduce the film and present a post-screening, question-and-answer session.

The showing is sponsored by the Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition and Wild Idaho Rising Tide. Refreshments will be served and donations accepted to support the free event.

The documentary earned the Audience Appeal Award at the 2014 Moab International Film Festival and the environmental news website EcoWatch named it one of the Ten Best Eco-Docs of 2014. The film highlights industry efforts underway to strip mine almost one million acres of tar sands and oil shale deposits across eastern Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.  Opponents say potential strip mines would overuse and pollute the Colorado River watershed, on which 36 million people living downstream in drought-stricken areas depend for drinking water, agriculture, and recreation.

Before turning to filmmaking in 2012, Ekstrom was born and raised in eastern Washington and has worked as communications director for the statewide Wild Washington Campaign, which met initial success with the designation of the Wild Sky Wilderness near Index, Washington.  Besides assisting several citizen initiative, electoral political, and education campaigns promoting sound environmental and social policies on clean air, smart growth, health care, and the minimum wage, she recently served as the waterkeeper and executive director for Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper in Sandpoint, Idaho. She was among the Idahoans to participate in the indigenous-led Tar Sands Healing Walk near Fort McMurray, Alberta, in August 2012.

“Making this film has opened my eyes to the magnitude of destruction on the horizon, if strip mining for tar sands and oil shale is allowed to gain momentum in America,” said Ekstrom, in a news release.  “The massive strip mines already approved by the state of Utah are setting the stage for what could be one of the most damaging and polluting industrial complexes in our nation.  Utah’s approval process did absolutely nothing to protect public health or the environment, but there is still time to stop these devastating projects before it’s too late.”

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