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Larry J. Heilmann, Fargo, Published May 01 2012

North Dakota’s most spectacular state park to be sacrificed for oil

The state of North Dakota is losing its largest and most spectacular state park. Little Missouri State Park, 20 miles north of Killdeer, is literally being given to the oil industry. Burlington Resources, a division of ConocoPhillips, has been given permission to drill as many as 80 wells in a 30,000-acre giant unitized lease area surrounding the park and possibly as many as 10 within the park boundaries.

Most of the currently planned wells will be visible from within the park and some will disrupt use of horseback and hiking trails. Roads, pipelines, gas flares and sludge pits will seriously degrade access to the park and use of it for recreation and camping.

The State Parks Department apparently is not at all worried because the oil company has promised to repair any damage to trails. Wow! No announcements or news releases have been released about this deal even though it was concluded last December. Only a single Associated Press story by Dale Wetzel was published anywhere.

In fact, the parks department and the tourism office are continuing to advertise the park as a badlands wilderness experience for hiking, horseback riding and camping. Just avoid the trucks and don’t get too close to the gas flares.

This is one of the most spectacular natural areas in the state. Why must it be degraded and possibly destroyed for the profit of a giant international oil company? Why is the state so eager to give this land away? Why is this story being kept so quiet?

Burlington Resources was formerly a division of BNSF Railway, and the mineral rights go back to the original land grants when the Northern Pacific Railroad was built in the 1880s. They did nothing with the land for 130 years.

Why is the state unwilling to even put up a mild fight for this spectacular piece of its natural heritage?