Keystone XL Google Earth ViewThe Keystone Mapping Project (KMP) is an internationally recognized multimedia and photography project examining land use, climate policy, and transparency through an exploration of the Keystone XL — the proposed 2,000 mile diluted bitumen pipeline that bisects the North American Continent. The controversial pipeline has become emblematic of our inability to reconcile world demand for fossil fuels with the environmental imperatives imposed upon modern civilization. This is a modern landscape described by markets, regulatory documents, legislation, bureaucracies, and public relations.

At first glimpse, the Keystone route appears as a single oil export pipeline bisecting the North American continent. Yet, the pipeline is more than a geographical dividing line. While politicians and TransCanada Corporation, the developer, bemoan America’s need for cheap domestic oil, economic analysis shows that the Keystone XL will not only raise domestic oil prices, but that the oil transported by the Keystone is primarily bound for export markets. Many landowners welcome TransCanada’s leases. Others are fighting the Canadian company’s use of eminent domain to gain right-of-way. Communities, while interested in the income that the pipeline will bring, find themselves concerned with threats to their air, water, and agriculture. Nationwide, environmentalists, landowners, and local governments feel voiceless against influential corporations, lax environmental laws, and regulatory disinterest. In both literal and figurative terms, the Keystone XL is a dividing line.

Interactive Mapping Resource

Keystone XL mapCentral to the KMP are Thomas Bachand’s maps of route data essential to understanding and interpreting the numerous Keystone XL environmental impact studies and reports published over the last six years. For largely unexplained reasons, both TransCanada Corporation and the pipeline’s chief regulator, the Department of State, will not release the route data to the public. With data obtained through state regulatory agencies, FOIA requests, and cooperating non-profits, Bachand has developed the most comprehensive publicly-available interactive mapping resource for the pipeline. These maps, along with the KMP blog, mobile app, and social media tools, allow communities, stakeholders, journalists, and non-profits to more easily evaluate the pipeline and its impacts and identify and cooperatively address common issues.

Landscape Photography

Keystone Mapping Project Voluntary Evacuation ZoneBased upon these maps and the lack of transparency surrounding them, Bachand has produced two bodies of landscape photography from publicly-available, automated visual records of the nation’s lands and commons. The Voluntary Evacuation Zone utilizes satellite photography to illustrate the wider impacts of this trans-continental energy project. Crossings examines the pipeline corridor through imagery from the automated Google Street View.

Underlying the Keystone controversy are basic perceptions of the land and land use. What are we to make of this hidden landscape? What is the story told by automated satellite and street cameras?

The KMP is the creation of author, photographer, and web developer Thomas Bachand.