- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

Williston Herald, Jan. 22, 2014

Special places deserve to be protected

Gov. Jack Dalrymple is under a lot of pressure this week.

An effort led by State Rep. Roscoe Streyle is pushing Dalrymple to exert his authority and limit the number of “special places” that can be free of oil wells.

The controversy came about after a group led by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem designated 20 places in the state as “special” and announced that oil companies would not be able to drill on the sites.

Stenehjem’s recommendation will likely be decided by Dalrymple.

Last week, Streyle wrote an opinion piece blasting Stenehjem for protecting so many areas, saying North Dakota should concentrate more on being business friendly and less on being “special.”

While we agree the state should be business friendly, the government is also responsible for protecting the areas that make North Dakota unique.

The reality is we don’t want drilling rigs popping up along Lake Sakakawea or Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If we visit the Killdeer Mountains or the Little Missouri State Park, we want to see the scenery that makes North Dakota special.

We support oil drilling, and we support the companies that risk so much to bring oil out of the ground.

But the companies can drill without infringing on some of the most beautiful places in the nation. With horizontal drilling techniques, a rig could easily set up two miles away and still collect oil under the Roosevelt Park or the Killdeer Mountains.

We want North Dakota to remain business friendly, but the state can do that while protecting some of the places that make North Dakota truly special.

So while Streyle and others are asking Dalrymple to allow drilling anywhere, we ask him to keep some places free from oil activity while still encouraging companies to drill.

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Minot Daily News, Minot, Jan. 16, 2014

Helms: Too many jobs to do?

Put yourself in the shoes of Lynn Helms, the director of the state Department of Mineral Resources. According to state law, he is to be the state’s top oil regulator. Yet, he’s also charged with the task of promoting oil development. Can the two job duties continue to be done by one person?

That’s the question being asked by two Democratic lawmakers, who have asked the North Dakota Industrial Commission to separate the duties. Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, and Rep. Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, expressed concern over Helms’ role following an oil pipeline rupture near Tioga last fall and an oil train derailment in December near Casselton. Helms had initially refused to publicly comment on the Tioga spill, which wasn’t made public for days, because he said it wasn’t part of his agency’s jurisdiction. But, the Democrats point out, Helms did share details of the spill by email with his daughter at Penn State University. Shortly before the derailment, Helms said his agency was considering creating a report to dispel the “myth” that transporting Bakken crude by rail was an “explosive, dangerous thing.”

We’re not saying Helms has done a poor job, and his department continues to make changes to strengthen regulation surrounding the oil industry. But we do wonder if it’s inherently unwise to ask one person to fill the roles of oil regulator and oil enthusiast. There must be times when the two job descriptions clash, and in those instances, Helms would perhaps find himself in a no-win situation. Members of the Industrial Commission, which is made up of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, should give serious consideration to separating the duties now solely held by Lynn Helms.

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The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Jan. 23, 2014

Heritage Fund’s first round instructive

When the Legislature created the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund, most people didn’t have a handle on where the money would go, other than for conservation, habitat and hunting and fishing access. But now we have the first round of recommendations from the fund’s advisory board to the state Industrial Commission, and citizens will have real projects to judge.

The Industrial Commission is expected to take up 18 recommendations at its Jan. 29 meeting.

Those recommendations, representing $5.9 million in spending, were chosen from among 74 proposals.

The 12-member Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board did a good job of providing recommendations on a wide range of outdoor programs, geographically and in terms of mission. We like that the two biggest ticket items were for statewide programs, helping private citizens in conservation efforts.

The board recommended the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts receive $1.9 million for tree-planting statewide. And the state Game and Fish Department was recommended for $1.9 million for its wildlife-friendly PLOTS and SOL programs. Those two organizations have well-developed management structures that can streamline the flow of funds from state coffers to hands-on local programs.

Two Ducks Unlimited proposals could get approval for a combined $1.15 million for aquatic and grassland habitat improvement. The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department has been recommended for three grants totaling $314,000, for trail and stewardship programs.

There are several more smaller proposed allotments to soil conservation districts in Richland, Ransom and Barnes counties, funds for the Marcus Friskop Nature Center in Hankinson and a community fitness park in Minot, and money for work on the Warwick Dam in Eddy County. The Spirit Lake Nation Fish and Wildlife Department was recommended for two grants totaling $14,133, one mapping tribal lands for sportsmen and the other developing artificial nesting habitat.

The board recommended the Bismarck Park District receive $105,000 to help fund a 15.6-acre trailhead/neighborhood park. Twelve acres will be conserved as natural habitat for native bird nesting.

Delta Waterfall would receive $34,000 for establishing hen houses and the Ludden Sportsman Club would receive $50,000 for tree plantings, under the recommendations.

Almost all of the recommendations are for less than the original amount requested. And in each case, local or agency funding is also at play.

What’s proposed represents an interesting mix of habitat improvement, infrastructure development and education.

The advisory group has done a good job for the Industrial Commission. It has given the Legislature and North Dakotans an idea of what’s possible.

The state’s discussion about resource development and conservation is far from over. The projects presented here give substance to long-held North Dakota ideas of conservation, a hunting ethic and outdoor life.

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