Saturday, March 30, 2013

Athlete scientists will document North Dakota Badlands

Athlete scientists will document North Dakota Badlands

A team of adventure scientists will take on the Badlands starting in April.
“100 Miles of Wild,” will put an eco-expedition in the North Dakota Badlands for 10 days beginning on Earth Day, April 22.
Teams of ultra-endurance, athlete-scientists will run, climb and trek through the rugged terrain and document the state of an area under pressure from Bakken oil field development.
The scientists are with Adventure Science, based in Calgary, Alberta. Besides being scientists, team members are marathoners, mountaineers, ice climbers and solo explorers. One is a former Army Ranger.
Adventure Science founder and geologist Simon Donato said the project has a simple goal.
“We will discover and report first-hand the condition of the wilderness that inspired President Theodore Roosevelt’s effort to preserve the rugged, wild spaces for all Americans and the world,” he said.
Team members will stop every hour to document wildlife, biology and geology in photographs and video, make sound recordings to document noise pollution and write individual observations.
Donato said Adventure Science is neutral, and while its members appreciate wilderness, they have diverse opinions about oil and growth.
“What they share is a determination to collect information and make scientific observations ahead of the drill bit,” he said.
Richard Rothaus, archaeologist with Trefoil Cultural and Environmental LLC in Sauk Rapids, Minn., is organizing the logistics and the route.
He said the group will consist of six scientists, plus a support staff. The eco-expedition will begin in the Killdeer Mountains and journey from the north to the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, including the Little Missouri National Grasslands.
“We’ll find out if there are places where we feel like we’re the only people alive or if we can hear truck traffic,” he said.
Rothaus said there is no baseline to compare this data against, though there are historical photographs that will used to make some comparisons.
“There isn”t a baseline. Who would create it? No one envisioned anything like this,” he said.
Andrew Reinhard, one of the team’s two archaeologists, said, “Rothaus and I had been planning a relatively casual Badlands journey for the past few years. As the Bakken oil boom exploded, we realized we needed to hit this idea hard.”
Rothaus said one group will chart a straight-line course in 10 days, followed by teams of marathoners who will do the same route in five days, making concentric sweeps off the trail to document conditions.
“We’re not going to be on existing roads and roads. If there is one, we don’t want to be on it. We’re trying to get to spots that are not visited a lot,” Rothaus said.
The information will be shared with anyone interested on a website and in a book, Rothaus said. The route will be tracked on GPS and people will be able to follow along on Twitter (@100MilesOfWild, #ndbadlands) or by visiting
Rothaus is still planning the route and trying to anticipate conditions.
“Anything can happen in the Badlands. The weather in April could bring anything from blizzards to tornadoes. There’s no drinkable water. We’re traveling more than 20,000 feet of elevation change in a short amount of time. And the rattlesnakes could be waking up,” he said.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Killdeer rancher has muddy spring mess from unwanted wells

Killdeer rancher has muddy spring mess from unwanted wells

KILLDEER MOUNTAINS — Loren Jepson paid an attorney and fought as hard as he could to keep oil wells from being built alongside his Killdeer Mountain ranch.
He lost, and now he says he’ll have another mess on his hands — this one caused by clay mud and silt running off the drill pad into his stock dam less than 50 yards downhill.
“I told the state (Industrial Commission) this would happen,” Jepson said Thursday, while he watched the slow spring melt carry a stream of mud into the water he uses for livestock and to water his yard and garden.
As he stood out on his private road that runs parallel to the construction of Hess Corp.’s multi-well pad, a contractor walked through the muddy ditch to talk about the situation.
The newest idea was to try to slow water on the other side of the pad to hopefully get the melt water to drop silt on that side, he told Jepson.
The same contractor installed several straw wattles and plastic sheet dams to try to tame the muddy water slide, but Jepson said the fix was too little, too late, partly because none of it made effective contact with the cold, thawing soil.
Construction on the massive pad started in February within a day or two of Jepson losing his appeal.
The wells are on the south end of a state school land section and Jepson’s case to the state Industrial Commission was to relocate them to the other end of the section, or farther.
The Killdeer Mountains area is historically and archaeologically important, though an archaeological survey prior to the pad being built didn’t turn up any artifacts, Jepson admitted.
No one from Hess returned phone calls or emails asking for comment. The contractor at the site was busy and the Tribune was unable to talk to him.
Hess’ attorney, John Morrison of Bismarck, said Hess installed erosion control and twice installed additional controls at Jepson’s request.
“Hess is not aware of any mud or silt migrating on Mr. Jepson’s property or into a stock dam,” Morrison said in a letter to Jepson’s attorney dated Thursday.
Jepson said he contacted the company and waited a week for them to show up, while the silt kept running.
“I tried to tell them I’ve got quite a grade coming through here. They can put down all the straw wattle they want to,” he said.
He said he knows in the whole scheme of development, his silted-in stock dam is a relatively small deal.
The water is important to him, but so is the principle of the matter.
“I’ve lived all my life here to build what we got and now to be encircled by wells and then to put up with their mud,” Jepson said. “I knew this mud was going to happen.”
Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources and the state’s primary oil regulator, said he would have an inspector look at the Jepson problem.
He said wells are exempt from certain federal stormwater rules, but under a state drilling permit companies are not allowed to contaminate surface or groundwater sources.
Soil can be a contaminant, Helms said.
Jepson said he enlarged his stock dam last summer because it was so dry and he wanted to catch and hold more water.
“I’m not a tree hugger,” he said. “Someone’s got to stand up to these people.”

Rig collapses at Hess well site in Killdeer Mountains

Rig collapses at Hess well site in Killdeer Mountains

While Hess Corp. was dealing with mud runoff from a contested drilling site in the Killdeer Mountains on Thursday, it had some major problems at a drilling site three miles north in the mountains.
A drilling rig owned by Precision Drilling collapsed at about noon Wednesday during a move to the last well on a six-well pad, said Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources.
One of the rig legs collapsed in the process, he said. No injuries were reported.
By Thursday, Precision Drilling had personnel parked out on the road to prevent access to the site. Cranes were at the scene lifting the rig equipment.
No one answered phone calls Friday to Precision Drilling for an update on the accident.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Our View: There’s space for both oil, conservation in ND

Published March 24, 2013, 12:00 AM

Our View: There’s space for both oil, conservation in ND

If there is one thing we will never have a shortage of in North Dakota, it is space. Regardless of a population boom threatening to double the size of towns, there is still plenty of space out here on the Western Edge.
By: Press Editorial Board, The Dickinson Press
If there is one thing we will never have a shortage of in North Dakota, it is space. Regardless of a population boom threatening to double the size of towns, there is still plenty of space out here on the Western Edge.
There’s so much room that even the oil industry and environmental stewards, who have never been too keen on all that goes into puncturing the earth for so-called black gold, have co-existed relatively peacefully since the boom began a few years ago.
This week, the two sides navigated what appeared to be a dangerous crossroads in that relationship when XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., on Thursday night withdrew its permit application to drill on two sections of land adjacent to the historic Elkhorn Ranch site in Theodore Roosevelt National Park — a week before the permit was set to go before the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Oil and Gas Division for approval.
We believe this was a step in the right direction for both state leaders as well as high-profile energy companies with enormous interests in the Bakken to show they are indeed as interested in maintaining North Dakota’s beauty and history as they all claim to be.
There is plenty of oil two miles beneath our feet, which means there are plenty of places to drill for it.
Though the Industrial Commission didn’t have a chance to approve or deny XTO’s permit request to drill what it said in documents would have been “not more than four wells” on those two sections in northwest Billings County — in some places less than 1,000 feet from the 218-acre Elkhorn Ranch site where Roosevelt homesteaded and ranched when he came to North Dakota in the mid-1880s — it should take this past week as a lesson learned in conservation.
State leaders must remember last week as they discern what areas of western North Dakota — be that the Elkhorn Ranch site, the Killdeer Mountains or land next to Lake Sakakawea — must be protected from oil and gas drilling.
While the Elkhorn Ranch may just be a grove of cottonwood trees and ranch land today — some claim it is also excellent hunting land — with nothing more than a barely recognizable foundation to prove it was once Roosevelt’s home, it is one of many places in this state that serve as a reminder from where we came.
This was about setting an example of how North Dakota intends to treat the places it holds dear from the potential irreparable damages that can come with oil and gas drilling.
While we wholeheartedly support the oil and gas industries’ efforts to drill for resources in our state, we also hope it understands that there will be times when it must slow down, take a step back and examine the historical significance of where it intends to explore.
North Dakota is a state proud of its history. It is a state proud of its people, both native and adopted. It is a state proud of its resources, both on the surface and beneath it.
Finding a way to ensure those people and resources coexist is paramount to ensuring the quality of life that we as North Dakotans hold dear.

The Press Editorial board consists of Publisher Harvey Brock,
Managing Editor Dustin Monke and News Editor Klark Byrd.

Friday, March 22, 2013

US-Dakota War Memory and History

US-Dakota War Memory and History

This last Friday (03/22/2013), I attended one of the four US-Dakota War Panel Discussions, this one at Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, Standing Rock Nation, North Dakota. The events are co-sponsored by the North Dakota Humanities Council and the Center for Heritage Renewal. The discussions are a give-and-take, where three Native and non-Native historians and discussants give introductory remarks and impressions of where we are “at” today, 150 years after engagements, battles and massacres — what today we call Total War — started in the Minnesota River Valley in 1862, and concluded albeit temporarily at Killdeer Mountains in 1864. (I say “albeit temporarily” because the Battle of Greasy Grass [aka, Little Big Horn] and Wounded Knee had yet to come).
Two of the many impressions I had at this particular event are as follows:
The US-Dakota Wars panel discussion at Sitting Bull College on March 22, 2013.
Photo from the US-Dakota Wars panel discussion at Sitting Bull College on March 22, 2013.
1) This public format remains one of the best ways to open a discussion that broadens the exchange not just with the “official” panel discussants, but with the audience members as well. The quasi-lecture and conversational format brings new voices into the fold, and this is important in that it allows researchers an opportunity to hear about historical particulars that simply do not exist in the archives or in “official” histories.
2) In this Sitting Bull College context, one audience participant noted how they, as a Native, felt a bit more comfortable opening up and chatting about the history and memory of the US-Dakota wars: depending on social contexts, individuals may or may not decide to talk about particular points of memory and history. This is an interesting intersection between our Sense of Place and Sense of History: the history we will talk about is largely dependent on where we are and who we are with. This also made me think about how it would be interesting to track how each one of these discussions played out. For example, in chatting with Richard Rothaus after the discussion happened on March 23, 2013 in Watford City, North Dakota, Rothaus noted how the audience contributed a completely different set of voices, and asked a completely different set of questions. This no doubt is due to the different range of cultural back-drops everyone comes from, and also how our vision and memories of the past are shaped by the different cultures we are born in to (for example, the first panel discussion was approximately 240 miles from the second panel discussion, both of which were in North Dakota: the first was at Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, the second in Watford City, North Dakota).
This is the first of 4 discussions, and each discussion is happening (or happened) at a different location.  The third discussion will take place on Friday, April 5, 2013, at the Ellendale Opera House in Ellendale, North Dakota, and the fourth discussion will be at the Lake Region Heritage Center in Devils Lake, North Dakota on Saturday, April 6, 2013. More details at the following links here and here.

10 QUESTIONS with Killdeer Mayor Dan Dolechek

10 QUESTIONS with Killdeer Mayor Dan Dolechek

Posted on 22 March 2013 by Bryce Martin
Killdeer City Commission President Dan Dolechek – more colloquially referred to as Killdeer mayor – was elected in 2008 to his first term serving the city of Killdeer.
Mayor Dan Dolechek has served the city of Killder since he was elected in 2008. (Photo by BRYCE MARTIN/Herald)
Mayor Dan Dolechek has served the city of Killdeer since he was elected in 2008. (Photo by BRYCE MARTIN/Herald)
Herald Editor
Posted March 22, 2013
Killdeer City Commission President Dan Dolechek – more colloquially referred to as Killdeer mayor – was elected in 2008 to his first term serving the city of Killdeer. Since then, he has become surrounded by some of the biggest oil boom development in Dunn County history.
Q: Where are you from?
A: From Dickinson originally. Been here since 1980.
Q: What attracted you to Dunn County?
A: My first wife was from Killdeer. Since I’ve been here, I’ve just fallen in love with the place – the scenery, all the opportunities.
Q: Do you take part in the recreation?
A: Yes. One year out where I hunt all the time, the landowner called the game warden out there because he found two bucks that had been fighting and their antlers were locked together. So the local game warden went out there to do what he could and he ended up sawing a couple of the antlers off to free them. This was about a month before the season started. It turned out that the deer that I shot was the one that he had sawed the points off of. I didn’t know that until I walked up to it.
Q: What’s your favorite place in North Dakota?
A: The Killdeer Mountain area, Lake Sakakawea, the badlands. Dunn County.
Q: How do you feel about the effects from the oil boom?
A: For the most part, I think it’s been good for the area. It’s brought a lot of wealth to a lot of the people that weren’t used to it. Working at Cenex for 15 years prior to my present job, I saw a lot of people that were struggling, living day-to-day and now they can park that old truck and tractor and get some new equipment. It’s been pretty beneficial for the area.
Q: What’s your present job?
A: Work for Petrol Hunt Corp. The little knife oil field that’s been out here since the first oil boom, like 15 miles west of town. I’m a mechanic.
Q: Are you going to stay mayor as long as you can?
A: I’ve been on two terms of the commission before I was elected mayor. This is my second term as mayor. It’s been fun, been exciting and I’ll probably stick with it for a while yet.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being mayor (Commission President)?
A: Just seeing the progress and the good things that we can do as a city leader to better the community.
Q: Where do you think Killdeer will be in 10 years? What will it look like?
A: I think that it’ll probably be twice the size it presently is with a lot of new people and hopefully a lot of new businesses and different things to do.
Q: What do you think about the drilling in the Killdeer Mountains?
A: That’s something that I think- I mean this oil isn’t going to go anywhere. I think they could’ve waited a year or two and come up with a better solution to that instead of just going in there and getting started on it. It’s not like the oil is going to disappear. With the sacred ground and whatever that’s out there, it’s something they should have definitely looked into a little before they started on it. ♦
Mayor Dan Dolechek has served the city of Killder since he was elected in 2008. (Photo by BRYCE MARTIN/Herald)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Revamping the North Dakota Industrial Commission

Revamping the North Dakota Industrial Commission

Signage at Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch. Photo from September 2012.
Signage at Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch. Photo from September 2012.
Theodore Roosevelt passed the American Antiquities Act of 1906after experiencing what unencumbered industrialization had done to the American West. Since 1906, this initial piece of legislation has been amended and updated to reflect the changing times. I was thinking about that when I read this morning’s story in The Dickinson Press, “Oil Company Stakes Out Area for Well Pads Steps Away from Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch.” A subsidiary of ExxonMobil, XTO Energy has staked an area immediate to Roosevelt’s 1883 Elkhorn Ranch just along the Little Missouri River in the badlands of western North Dakota.
With the American bison nearly extinct (and who knows what other species), when Teddy was president he decided to draw some boundaries around sections of wilderness for preservation. He did this for both applied and philosophical reasons. By setting aside and declaring these spaces sacred, us Americans would be able to engage in recreation (when unpacked, the word means re-create), and we would also have a kind of common cultural datum that we could all associate with from one generation to the next. These cultural datums provide society with stability in that everyone has a common point of reference. “Hey, did you go to Elkhorn Ranch last weekend?” The response is, “Yeah,” and both individuals know they experienced and perceived the same looking landscape, the same space, but at different points in time. This is what David Glassberg was getting at in his 2001 work, Sense of History. After attending two meetings in Bismarck that concerned the Killdeer Mountains in January and February, 2013, I and others increasingly believe that this is fairly meaningless to the majority party bottom-liners in our state government. I’ve thought about this, and wondered if there was a better way to bring our State Industrial Commission up to speed.
Sometimes folks go to the Elkhorn to read about the Elkhorn. Photo from September 2012.
Sometimes folks go to the Elkhorn to read about the Elkhorn. Photo from September 2012.
The State Industrial Commission was originally formed in 1919 with the idea that it would guide industrial development in the state. I am not against industry. In fact, I don’t know how someone could be “against” industry. It would be impossible. I recognize it as the substructure upon which the superstructure of our culture rests: if you like the arts and humanities, you gotta have an industrial foundation. In 1919, only 30 years after North Dakota had gotten its statehood start, a three-person industrial commission worked. Almost 100 years later, we are learning that an industrial commission with only 3 voices on it is not working for a state with a population of approximately 700,000 (and growing).
As of March 19, 2013, the only three voices on the commission are as follows: 1) Jack Dalrymple, who was born into family Bonanza farming in Casselton, and received a bachelors in American Studies from Yale (I think under Howard Lamar, who wrote a great piece of scholarship entitled, Dakota Territory 1861-1889: A Study in Frontier Politics [1956]); 2) Wayne Stenehjem, who has a juris doctorate from the University of North Dakota (Wayne’s father was a former president of our Bank of North Dakota; and 3) Doug Goehring, who operates a 2,000-acre farm near Menoken (note: at the end of this blog posting, I have cut and pasted the public Meet the Commissioner profiles to this blogspot).
These three are supposed to listen to Lynn Helms (who holds a bachelors of science in engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines), and Lynn is supposed to be an expert at informing the commission on approving drilling permits. At the last meeting I attended on Killdeer Mountains, Lynn attempted to explain the archaeology and history to the three commissioners, and this was unfair to him: Lynn’s training is in engineering and his professional life history has been in the oil business. He indeed is familiar with the workings of his profession. But when it comes to history and archaeology, he is tasked with learning about and briefing the public on two disciplines that professional historians and archaeologists think about incessantly, 24/7, 365 days/year, for their entire lives.
Public visitor sign-in list at Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch in western North Dakota. Photo from September 2012.
Public visitor sign-in list at Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch in western North Dakota. Photo from September 2012.
The three of these commissioners reflect just a small cross section of North Dakota society, yet they are tasked with the job of making decisions for one and all. This isn’t 1919 anymore. It is 2013, and it is only fair to modify the industrial commission accordingly. Here is one idea: the industrial commission needs to be expanded to a board of 12-to-15 members. For example, in addition to the three members already on the commission, we need to add the following: 1) a medical doctor; 2) an economist; 3) a pastor, priest and two nuns; 4) a biologist; 5) a historian; 6) an archaeologist; 7) at least two Native elders; 8) a cattle rancher; 9) a banker; 10) an ASE-certified mechanic; 11) a philosopher of ethics; 12) an IT/Web-2.0 expert; 13) an English major; 14) a soldier-veteran; 15) and so on. To be quick and short, this would reflect a much greater cross-section of North Dakota society. It is just an idea, nonetheless. And it is unlikely to gain any traction in this legislative session (North Dakota’s 63rd). But perhaps in number 64 or 65.
As promised, here is a distillation of the public profiles of our industrial commission as of March 19, 2013:
Jack Dalrymple, Governor
Born October 16, 1948, Dalrymple grew up in Casselton on the family farm, established in 1875 by his great-grandfather. He graduated with honors from Yale University in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies and then returned to North Dakota to manage the farming operations.
Dalrymple came to the North Dakota Legislature in 1985, representing a rural Cass County House district. He served eight terms, including six years as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. In 2000, he was elected North Dakota’s 35th Lieutenant Governor with Governor John Hoeven and was re-elected in 2004 and 2008. He was elected to his first full term as Governor in 2012.
Dalrymple is a nationally recognized leader in value-added agriculture. He was the founding board chairman of Carrington-based Dakota Growers Pasta Company, the third-largest manufacturer and marketer of dry pasta products in North America. His work in helping to found the company earned him the 2007 Ernst and Young Midwest “Master Entrepreneur of the Year” Award. Dalrymple served as chairman of the North Dakota Trade Office and the Governor’s Commission on Education Improvement.
Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was born in Mohall, North Dakota.  He graduated from the University of North Dakota and received his law degree from the UND School of Law in 1977. 
Stenehjem was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives in 1976, serving for two terms until his election to the ND Senate in 1980.  He served for twenty years in the Senate until his election to the Office of Attorney General. Stenehjem served on the Judiciary Committee throughout his tenure in the Legislature, and was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1995-2000. He was elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate for the 1999 Legislative Session. In January 2001, Stenehjem was sworn in as the State’s 29th Attorney General. He was reelected in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
Stenehjem is a member of numerous boards and commissions, including the Board of University and School Lands, Industrial Commission (which oversees all state-owned industries including the Bank of North Dakota and the State Mill and Elevator), Drug and Alcohol Commission (chair), Judicial Council and Pardon Advisory Board. 
He was named one of Ten Outstanding Legislators in the US by the Association of Government Employees, and is the recipient of “Champion of the People’s Right to Know” award; SBAND Legislative Service Award; “Friend of Psychology” award; the 2005 North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association’s Lone Eagle Award, was inducted into the Scandinavian American Hall of Fame in 2007, and was named the 2011 Bismarck State College Alumnus of the Year.
Doug Goehring, Agricultural Commissioner
Doug Goehring has been North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner since April 2009 and was elected to a full, four-year term in November 2010.
A third-generation farmer, Commissioner Goehring, along with his son, Dustin, operates a 2,000-acre, no-till farm near Menoken in south central North Dakota, where they raise corn, soybeans, spring wheat, winter wheat, sunflowers, and canola. In the past, the Goehrings have also produced durum, barley, mustard, millet, safflower, alfalfa, lentils and field peas, and have had a feeder cattle operation.
Commissioner Goehring is the former president and chairman of the board of Nodak Mutual Insurance Co. and a director of American Agricultural Insurance Co.
Long active in farm organizations, Commissioner Goehring has served as vice president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau and is a member of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, the North Dakota Grain Growers, the North Dakota Soybean Association, the North Dakota Corn Growers Association and the National Association of Corporate Directors. An early supporter of agriculture-based, renewable fuels, he is an investor in the Red Trail Energy Ethanol Plant at Richardton.
Commissioner Goehring is a former director of the United Soybean Board where he served as chairman of the sustainability committee, domestic research committee, industrial uses and international marketing committee. He was a former director of the North Dakota Soybean Council, a former secretary/treasurer of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association and a member of USDA’s Area 4 Research Farm Steering Committee. He is the former president of the Menoken School Board and past chairman of the Bismarck Mandan Chamber Agriculture Committee.
He chairs the Biotechnology Task Force of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and is president of the Midwest Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
Commissioner Goehring attended Bismarck State College and is a licensed medical laboratory technician. He attends Evangel Assembly of God in Bismarck.
Lynn Helms, Director of the North Dakota Industrial Commission Oil and Gas Division
Helms earned his bachelor of science degree in engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1978, but his oil field career began as a roughneck in 1976 working summers and holidays. After graduation Helms worked for two years as a production engineer for Texaco in all of the producing areas of Montana.
In 1980, Helms joined Amerada Hess in Williston, N.D. While in Williston he worked as a production engineer, reservoir engineer and asset team leader on projects in Abu Dhabi, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Series to focus on Dakota War

Series to focus on Dakota War

A series of public forums discussing “The Dakota War in Dakota Territory” is scheduled for Sitting Bull College Friday and Watford City Saturday.
The programs are organized by the Center for Heritage Renewal, North Dakota State University, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.
Friday’s forum begins at 7 p.m. in the Sitting Bull College Science and Technology Center, room 120/101.
Saturday’s forum will be at 7 p.m. at the Watford City High School media center.
Richard Rothaus, CEO of Trefoil Cultural and Environmental, and research associate of the NDSU center, is the lead scholar for the program series.
Other presenters are Tamara St. John, archivist for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate; Dennis Gill, an elder in the Sisseton-Wahpeton community; and LaDonna Allard, tourism director of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Dennis Cooley, professor of philosophy at NDSU, will moderate the programs, in which audience discussion is invited and encouraged.
The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862-64, which began with violence in Minnesota in 1862, moved into Dakota Territory with the siege of Fort Abercrombie in 1862.
It extended onto the Dakota plains in 1863-64. Actions at Whitestone Hill in 1863 and Killdeer Mountain in 1864 are the best-known events in a war that involved not only all Dakota peoples, but also the western Lakota, as well as the citizens and armed forces of the territory and nation.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Come Early, Stay Late

Come Early, Stay Late

Okay, next crisis. There seems to be one every day for people like us who are concerned about the impact the oil industry is having on western North Dakota. Negative impact, that is. There are lots of positive impacts. I take note of those, and am grateful, like every other North Dakotan. It’s the negative impacts I worry about, and write about here.
Late last year, you read in the papers and saw on TV the stories about the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which is the three state officials who approve permits to drill for oil in North Dakota, granting permission for oil companies to drill for oil in Little Missouri State Park. A few people raised a ruckus, but the drilling is proceeding.
Earlier this year, you read about a group of Dunn County citizens who were concerned about the Industrial Commission granting a permit to drill for oil in the Killdeer Mountains. The citizens attended the Industrial Commission hearing and had their say. Their say was, “this is a bad place to drill for oil.” The Industrial Commission thanked them for their input and said they would take the permit application under advisement and make a decision sometime in the future. The Dunn County citizens got in their cars and headed home for supper. Before they had gotten past new Salem, the Industrial Commission brought the matter back up and voted to approve the permit. The Dunn County citizens read about it in the paper the next morning. Everyone I talked to the next day agreed it was one of the most chickenshit things state officials in North Dakota had done in a long, long time, maybe ever. For the record, the three men who did that are named Jack Dalrymple, Wayne Stenehjem and Douglas Goehring.
Well, there’s going to be another Industrial Commission hearing on Thursday, March 28, at 9 a.m., at the North Dakota Capitol, at which time they are going to be asked for a drilling permit for another really bad place to drill for oil. This time, it is right beside the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. And I mean RIGHT BESIDE. I mean, when you drive your car down the gravel road into the Elkhorn Ranch, and pull into the little parking lot, and up to the gate to the walking trail down to Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin site, and get out of your car, there’s going to be an oil well beside the passenger side door of your car. RIGHT THERE. If the Industrial Commission grants the permit. No kidding.
If you look at the docket for the hearing on March 28, you’ll find, buried way down near the end, on page 22 of a 24 page document, Case No. 19996. It reads “Application of XTO Energy Inc. for an order authorizing the drilling, completing and producing of a total of four wells on an existing 1280-acre spacing unit described as Sections 5 and 6, T. 143 N., R. 102W., Morgan Draw-Bakken Pool, Billing County, ND . . .”
Luckily for us, someone actually reads all 24 pages of these dockets, looking for danger signals like this one. In this case, that someone happened to be an employee of the National Park Service, who thought to himself or herself, I don’t know which, “Hmmm, that description looks familiar. I know where that’s at.” The National Park Service is the federal agency which manages Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn cabin site. Which just happens to be located in . . .you guessed it . . . Section 5, T. 143N., R. 102W, Billings County, ND.
That sharp-eyed employee, in a recent visit to the Elkhorn Ranch site, discovered that, long before the Industrial Commission has made its decision on whether or not to approve the drilling permit, XTO Energy has already been to the site and put stakes in the ground for a proposed oil well on U.S. Forest Service land directly adjacent to the Elkhorn Ranch, very close to the small parking lot.
I’m attaching a map to this story which shows the location of the Elkhorn Ranch. The two sections being discussed for drilling by XTO are outlined by me in red. The sections shaded green on this map are owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Purple is National Park Service. Blue is the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. White is privately owned land. As you can see, the U.S. Forest Service owns almost all of Sections 5 and 6, except for just a little bit of the upper right hand corner of the section. XTO holds the mineral leases on those two sections, for which they paid a good deal of money. Now they’ve decided it is time to get their money back—and then some—by drilling four oil wells there.  The Elkhorn Ranch site, which is only 70 or 80 acres, actually has little pieces of four different sections. The little piece in section 5 is where the parking lot is. If you look carefully, you can see the red-dotted line coming in from the west right up to the edge of the purple. That’s the gravel road to the parking lot. I haven’t been out there yet to see the stakes, but the Park Service employee says they are right there by that road, right close to the parking lot.
If you’ve ever driven in on that road to the Elkhorn site, you know that sections 5 and 6, through which the road passes, are very rugged, full of hills and gullies. Real Bad Lands. But just before you get to the Elkhorn site, you come down a big hill and there’s a nice flat area as you approach the parking lot, probably 30 or 40 acres. Just big enough for a pad holding four oil wells, a bunch of tanks and all the other apparatus that goes with an oil well site. There are not many other places in those two sections –in fact, I don’t think there are any—that would be suitable for an oil well pad. I’m going to go out there and look for myself next week.
The Maah Daah Hey Trail, one of the most famous hiking and bicycling trails in America, also runs throughout the length of these two sections, so I would guess the Forest Service would be concerned about the well site as well. It’s the borken red line running through the two sections.
In fact, a friend of mine at the Park Service said the two agencies have talked about this, and the Forest Service says not to get too excited because nothing has been approved yet. Huh. Never mind that the stakes are in the ground for a well site. And with the permit application moving forward, it is obvious XTO is going to drill somewhere in those two sections, IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT TO THE ELKHORN RANCH. If the Industrial Commission gives them a permit. IF.
There’s another interesting angle at work here as well. The North Dakota Parks Department manages the land on the North and South sides of the Elkhorn. One would think that agency would be concerned about this, and be talking to the boss over in the Capitol about it. Seems to me the Industrial Commission would surely want to know how the state’s own Parks Department feels about this. At least in most states they would.
This isn’t the only threat to the Elkhorn, of course. You’ve already read here about the proposed gravel pit just across the river, and the proposed bridge cross the Little Missouriright beside the Elkhorn. From what I can tell, the preferred location for the bridge would be about 500 yards from where the stakes for the new oil well are. Well, isn’t that conveeeeeeenient, as the Church Lady used to say.
This is not just a North Dakota issue. National organizations like the Theodore Roosevelt Association and the Boone and Crocket Club have been involved in the resistance effort on the gravel pit and the bridge. I hope they will get involved on this one as well.
My friends in the Park Service are using words like “imminent threat ” and “extremely serious.” Rightfully so. Four oil wells this close to one of the nation’s most revered conservation spots is pretty much unthinkable.  Anywhere but North Dakota. Here, they’re thinking about it.
Please put the date on your calendar. Please come and let your state officials know this is a really bad idea. But don’t leave early.

Dakota War in Dakota Territory: Conflict & Memory on the Dakota Plains

Dakota War in Dakota Territory: Conflict & Memory on the Dakota Plains is a series of forums, convened in communities adjacent to significant sites of memory associated with the US-Dakota War of 1862-64 which will engage the public in discussion of the values and implications of this conflict for our historical memory and current situation.The events of 1862-64 were both destructive and formative in Dakota Territory. The Dakota War destroyed some peoples' ways of life, but not the peoples themselves. Their descendants on the northern plains inherit the legacies of this conflict and carry the historical memory of it. 

7:00 p.m., March 22, 2013
Sitting Bull College
Science & Technology Center Room 20/10
Fort Yates, ND
Mark Holman

7:00 p.m., March 23, 2013
Watford City High School Media Center
100 3rd St NE
Watford City, ND
Jan Dodge

7:00 p.m., April 5, 2013
Ellendale Opera House
55 Main St.
Ellendale, ND
Jeanette Robb-Ruenz

7:00 p.m., April 6, 2013
Lake Region Heritage Center
502 4th St NE
Devils Lake, ND
Kristin Wood

For general information on the program series, contact Tom Isern, Director of the NDSU Center for Heritage Renewal: (C) 701-799-2942 /

Statewide Press Release on Dakota War Programs
More Media Notices

Humanities Scholars for Dakota War Programs
Tamara St. John (archivist, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), presenter
Dennis Gill (elder, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), presenter
Richard Rothaus (CEO Trefoil Cultural & Environmental, research associate of the Center for Heritage Renewal), lead scholar
LaDonna Allard, Director, Standing Rock Tribal Tourism
Dennis Cooley, North Dakota State University, program moderator
Additional participants invited in specific communities

Sound Files - Program Previews
Tom Isern: The Humanities & the Dakota War
Richard Rothaus: 150 Years On
Tamara St. John: Our Elders Tell Us
Tamara St. John: Who We Are as a People
Richard Rothaus: Actors, Not Victims
Tom Isern: Humanities Scholars

The North Dakota NAYS against the History and Archaeology of the Killdeer Mountains

The North Dakota 

NAYS against the 

History and 

Archaeology of the 

Killdeer Mountains

In the last couple months, Killdeer Mountain land owners, professional historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, tribal historians, Native elders and biologists spent a good deal of time at the capitol in North Dakota to inform the legislature on the importance of being a bit more deliberate than usual when it comes to drilling for oil on Killdeer Mountains in western North Dakota. Ultimately, SB 2341 was created but voted down with moderate rather than extreme impunity by North Dakota’s 63rd legislature. Sigh…

Had the bill passed, it would have allowed moneys for the State Historical Society of North Dakota and North Dakota State University students, and professors of history and archaeology, to conduct an archaeological survey of Killdeer Mountains. I’m thinking I didn’t do a good enough job communicating that message to fellow North Dakotans who happen to be senators. Maybe next time around.
Earlier this morning I started to wonder about who voted against the bill. The results are linked to here, and the image is a copy of who voted against SB 2341. I have yet to chat with all the individuals who voted “NAY” on this bill, at least to garner an understanding as to what motivated them to do what they did.

The YEAS and NAYS for SB 2341, a bill that would have appropriated moneys to fund an archaeological and historical study on the Killdeer Mountains in western ND.