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Jerry M. Saude, Bismarck, Published September 07 2013

Letter: Western ND open for oil, business and recreation

Labor Day has come and gone, and my family and I just returned from our annual trek to the Little Missouri Bay State Park for a weekend of nature, seeing old friends, campfires, s’mores and trail riding in the prettiest part of the Badlands (in my opinion). The area around Killdeer, N.D., is alive with oilfield activity, farming and ranching, and Mother Nature has never presented a greener Labor Day.

The yellow, white and blue asters are ablaze, the goldenrod is coming into its own, the bittersweet is twining up the ash and juniper, and the birds have near completely robbed the chokecherries and plums from the wooden draws that we rode through. After hearing about the negative effects of the quest for oil and gas in the west, I wanted to describe our impression of this part of oil country in Dunn County.

Yes, we saw oil wells, and we saw big trucks on the new highways leading into and out of Killdeer. But getting to the park was a breeze. The road construction north of Killdeer to the river is complete. Yes we experienced it differently in 2011 and ’12, but that’s part of life in our state. Our construction season is short, and our winters are long. So we have to get out and enjoy the things we like when summer and fall are here. The park will be open until mid-October, I believe.

A family from Washington came in one afternoon when we returned from our horseback ride, and they were signed up for a guided trail ride with the ranch family who has that concession at the park. But you can also bring your own horses and ride and camp. The state Park Service has added additional corrals, additional trails, a shower facility that is a god-send after a hot day on the dusty trails, and rural water provides safe drinking water for the camp. It’s come a long way since I first was told about the park in 1978.

Only births and deaths have kept me from my Labor Day trail rides. I have been a member of the Badlands Trailriders for more than 30 years. In the next 30 years, we will see changes, and change is sometimes hard to handle. But I have confidence in the cooperative efforts that the state regulators, the private landowners and the oil companies will develop as this moves forward.

Areas of the Little Missouri Bay State Park will be affected by oil development. But we must remember that this park exists because of the stewardship of the local ranch families who make a living on the land and probably intend to keep doing so. They will adapt to the mineral development and the park will, too.

This unique arrangement with those ranch families allows the state’s small holding to provide more than 5,000 acres of land to ride on. This plan has evolved over the 45-plus years of the park, and it will continue to do so. I did not see the devastation of the west that is so often depicted in the news. I think we’ll be OK in North Dakota. The pioneer spirit lives in all corners of our state. Don’t stifle it with morose print and news clips.

We are open for business and for pleasure.