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Letter: North Dakota protects wild lands; Little Missouri State Park safe from development

In December, the North Dakota Industrial Commission took a major step to protect the Little Missouri State Park. After spending hundreds of hours working with various landowners and the State Parks and Recreation Department, the commission created a single-unit encompassing the 30,000 acres in and around the park to minimize the physical and visual impact of oil development.

The state owns only 20 percent of the surface within the Little Missouri State Park and less than 7 percent of the mineral rights. The remainder of the surface and mineral rights are privately owned. Any well sites within the park will be located on private lands. None have been permitted on state-owned land.

The North Dakota Constitution prohibits the state from denying private property owners the right to develop their property. But by creating the development unit the impact of drilling can be better managed and significantly minimized by reducing the number of well pads and by dictating where well pads can and cannot be located.

The unit operator, Burlington Resources, has agreed to locate wells so as to minimize view-shed impact. Burlington Resources also has agreed to drill wells between October and April to minimize any disruption in the park.

The Industrial Commission also has adopted and stringent regulations that include the elimination of sludge pits.

Development of the unit as proposed will require just two miles of new road within the park and all storage tanks and other oil facilities will be located outside the park's boundaries.

The state has taken significant steps to protect Little Missouri State Park and other state lands. We are committed to preserving our parks to be enjoyed by generations to come.

Lynn Helms, Department of Mineral Resources director, Bismarck