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Associated Press , Published October 22 2013

North Dakota group meeting over Roosevelt drilling

BISMARCK — A company that wanted to drill an oil well just feet from North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park has offered another option that has a better chance of winning approval.

ExxonMobile Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. had staked a well within 300 feet of the park's Elkhorn Ranch where Theodore Roosevelt built a cabin in the early 1880s.

XTO withdrew the proposal in March after public opposition.

The state Industrial Commission was to meet Tuesday to consider an alternative application that would move drilling two miles northwest to an existing well site yet still allow the company access to all of its oil leases, the Bismarck Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/16tgIJ9 ).

The site, on Forest Service land in the Little Missouri National Grasslands, appears to be out of sight of the park and also protects the access road leading to the Elkhorn Ranch and campground associated with the Maah Daah Hey Trail, said park superintendent Valerie Naylor.

"As it was (originally) staked out, I think it would have been the most intrusive oil well (ever impacting the park)," Naylor said.

Naylor said she testified in favor of XTO's application at a preliminary hearing three weeks ago.

XTO did not return phone calls seeking comment on its proposal.

Jan Swenson, director of Badlands Conservation Alliance, said XTO's application is a good step, though her group prefers a moratorium on any development near the Elkhorn Ranch until the Industrial Commission comes up with a strategy to protect such places.

Roosevelt raised cattle at the Elkhorn ranch in the mid-1880s before returning to his native New York and eventually becoming the nation's 26th president. The 218-acre site was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

Roosevelt credited his time at the ranch with deepening the love and respect he had for nature that helped make him an early champion of conservationism. He also said in his writings that he would not have become president were it not for his time in the Badlands.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com


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