The Deadline Is Today

Just one more reminder: Today, June 22, 2012, is the last day for telling the Federal Highway Administration, the North Dakota Department of Transportation and Billings County Commissioners that putting a new bridge over the Little Missouri River near the Elkhorn Ranch is a really bad idea. I’ve gotten copies of some of the comments that have been submitted already, and I want to share a couple with you. First, here’s an excerpt from comments written by Lowell Baier, former president of the Boone and Crocket Club, and chairman of the Friends of the Elkhorn Ranch, the group that was instrumental  in preserving the viewshed from the Elkhorn cabin by helping the U.S. Forest Service purchase the Eberts Ranch about five years ago. Several of the alternatives being considered for the new Little Missouri River Crossing go through the former Eberts Ranch, now known as the Elkhorn Ranchlands.

We remain committed to the protection of the solitude and sanctity of this sacred site, the Elkhorn Ranch, for all generations, both those now in being, and those in the womb of time. Theodore Roosevelt established the Elkhorn Ranch in the badlands of western North Dakota on June 9, 1884. He lived and ranched there until December 7, 1887. During those three and one-half years, he rode by horseback extensively throughout the Dakota and Montana Territories, what is today North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. He came to recognize how vulnerable the western lands were to the uncontrolled predation of man. He witnessed first-hand the destruction and pillaging of the West by rapacious logging and mining which polluted rivers and despoiled the landscape; the decimation of game by commercial hunting for the purpose of feeding the laborers building the transcontinental railroads, the loggers, and the miners; the denuding of the prairies by stockmen overgrazing their sheep and cattle herds; and the pillaging of what was then its only national park—Yellowstone—set aside a mere decade earlier. TR wrote extensively about his experiences and the conclusions that led to his maturational development of conservation in America in six books between 1885 and 1907. TR’s conservation philosophy was a direct outgrowth of having lived in the West and observed first-hand the swift changes that were taking place. TR was a naturalist and historian, and he was able to project into the future the ecological trends he saw occurring. TR‘s insights which led to his conservation philosophy were forged at the Elkhorn, which in turn gave rise to the American conservation movement as we know it today.

The Elkhorn Ranch is as sacred an American Heritage site as is Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, Antietam or Gettysburg, Valley Forge, the Alamo, the Statue of Liberty or the National Mall in Washington, D.C. , and its many monuments iconically and geographically defining and symbolizing the institutional memory of America’s cultural identity forged in life, liberty, national security, democracy, hope and the reservation and celebration of its scenic wonders.”

Well, the period Lowell was writing about sounds pretty similar to what is going on in western North Dakota today, doesn’t it?  Now I want to share with you the comments sent by a friend of mine from Beach, North Dakota, Jerry DeMartin. Jerry and his wife, Tama Smith, run Prairie Fire Pottery in Beach (if you are not familiar with Prairie Fire Pottery, you should look at their website) and live not far from the Elkhorn.

Dear Ms. Turnbow
I am writing in opposition to the proposed Little Missouri River crossing in Billings County, North Dakota and in support of Alternative L, the no-build alternative.
In my view, this project is being driven, not by necessity and public demand, but by the narrow self-interests of individuals holding a personal financial stake in oil and gas development in North Dakota.
Foremost among these is Billings County Commissioner, Jim Arthaud. In the interest of full disclosure, public transparency, and good government, I would like it noted in the public record that Commissioner Arthaud is also the owner and CEO of MBI Energy Services, an oil field trucking and service company in Belfield, North Dakota. Mr. Arthaud also serves as chairman of the Billings County Board of Commissioners, the sponsoring entity of this project. By any reasonable assessment, his participation in this process represents an egregious conflict of interest. As a public official who stands to gain financially from this bridge-building project, Commissioner Arthaud should recuse himself from any participation whatsoever. Instead, he is the project’s principal spokesperson and prime advocate.
Because North Dakota has some of the weakest conflict of interest laws in the nation, it falls to its citizens to be vigilant against such abuses. Thus, as a citizen and tax payer, it is my civic duty and responsibility to bring these facts to the public record and ask that Commissioner Arthaud’s participation and comments as they relate to the Little Missouri River crossing be viewed with stern skepticism or, better yet, be disregarded outright.
Further, the Billings County Commissioners, under his leadership, have not been able to establish either broad public demand or a compelling public necessity for their proposal. This is because this project is not about better ranch access or improved emergency response. It is about transporting oil and gas trucks more profitably through the Little Missouri River Valley.
If this were not reason enough for opposition, three of the proposed routes (Alternatives A,B, & C) would channel heavy industrial truck traffic, numbering in the thousands, in close proximity to the National Park Service’s Elkhorn Ranch Site. This cannot be allowed. A circle of protection must be drawn around this historic parcel of land. We have a solemn responsibility to do so, if not for ourselves, then for the sake of generations of Americans yet unborn that they too might experience their natural heritage in the pristine condition this site so magnificently represents and preserves.
Jerry DeMartin
Beach, North Dakota

Notice a theme there? The Washington D.C. lawyer and the small businessman from Beach, North Dakota, both are asking that the decision makers on his project not just consider the impact of this project today, but to make wise choices so that we might leave something for our children and grandchildren

So, will you take just ten minutes today and send an e-mail or letter to the project engineer, who will assemble all the comments and give them to the decision makers? Her name is Jennifer Turnbow. Her e-mail address is Her mailing address is: Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson, Jennifer Turnbow, Project Manager, 128 Soo Line Drive, Bismarck, ND 58501

And please, those of you outside of North Dakota, join this effort. This place is owned by all of us, the people of the United States. Your comments will be deeply appreciated. And we invite you to come and visit this great place of our as often as you can.

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