Gov. Jack Dalrymple today toured areas of western North Dakota that are important to the state's history and culture, wildlife and plant habitat and outdoor recreation. Dalrymple said the day-long, guided tour provided further insight into many of the region's special places and will help advance the state's ongoing commitment to minimize impacts from energy development and rapid growth.
"We can develop our energy resources to help create a bright future for North Dakota and at the same time preserve our great outdoors and unique ties to the past," Dalrymple said. "Responsible energy development and effective land stewardship are not mutually exclusive. We will continue working with the energy industry, private land owners and private mineral owners to minimize the footprint of energy development in western North Dakota."
Dalrymple 's nine-hour ground tour included visits to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit, Long X Divide, Lone Butte, Killdeer Mountains Wildlife Management Area, Killdeer Mountain Battlefield, Little Missouri River State Park, Elkhorn Ranch, Twin Buttes and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit. The Governor also took an aerial tour of areas of interest from south of Belfield and Medora to Watford City. The aerial tour included views of Bullion Butte, Kinley Plateau, Square Butte and Tracy Mountain. Dalrymple said he expects to visit other areas of special significance in the future.
Dalrymple toured the region accompanied by technical experts from the U.S. Forest Service, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the National Park Service, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. The group toured by passenger vehicle, on all-terrain vehicles and on foot.
The state follows a coordinated, multi-agency process to safeguard state lands important to North Dakota history, wildlife and plant habitat and outdoor recreation. The oversight requires the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the state Department of Mineral Resources and the state Game and Fish Department to review all tracts of state land to be made available for mineral lease, then identify for consideration by the North Dakota Industrial Commission any areas of special significance. The process allows the Industrial Commission to make informed decisions when considering the issuance of drilling permits, including restrictions designed to minimize the physical and visual impacts of oil development.
Dalrymple is chairman of the Industrial Commission. Other members are Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.
The Industrial Commission has required a wide range of stipulations on drilling permits to maintain natural view sheds, to protect water resources and to mitigate other development impacts. The Commission has also passed tougher regulations to further protect the environment. Additionally, the state's Oil and Gas Division and state Health Department have significantly increased their staffing to enhance inspections and regulatory enforcement.
Key to effective stewardship is continued strong working relationships between the state, energy industry, private land owners and private mineral owners, Dalrymple said.
The North Dakota Constitution prohibits the state from denying its citizens the right to develop their property and 90 percent of all minerals in the state are privately owned. The state owns about 2 percent of all mineral rights and the federal government owns the remaining 8 percent.
The Industrial Commission has placed a special emphasis on protecting the Little Missouri River State Park and other unique areas. While the state owns only 20 percent of the state park's surface and less than 7 percent of the mineral rights, the Industrial Commission has been able to reduce the number of well pads and restrict their location in and around the park by working with area property owners.