The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
When John Hoganson shelves his specialized tools today, he will be leaving behind a record that has earned North Dakota a place on the international fossil map. The state paleontologist wraps up 33 years with the North Dakota Geological Survey, most of that time as state paleontologist. It’s a position he defined.
Several studies are underway to determine why North Dakota’s wildlife populations, specifically iconic game species, are on the decline, and have been for several years. Two factors affecting wildlife — severe winters and the loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres — will come as no surprise. A third factor — unprecedented oil and gas development in prime game animal ranges — is the wild card. The studies will be useful, but don’t expect all of them to be definitive because political considerations have a way of inserting themselves into the science.
It’s often good form to give an underdog political candidate an “A for effort.” But when the effort is so ham-handed, so forced, so flat-out silly, it’s difficult to award even a “C minus.” That’s a generous grade for the Democratic challenger for North Dakota attorney general in light of her remarks following release of the latest state crime statistics.
For the first time in North Dakota’s history, agriculture is not the largest engine in the state’s economy. That’s what a statistical study by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found after examining economic trends in the state from 2011 through 2013. It’s a startling development in that it’s historic. But anyone who has been paying attention to the oil and gas boom in western counties knew the day was coming when mining (oil, natural gas and coal) would knock off King Ag.
A cellphone privacy decision by the U.S. Supreme Court sends a strong message that technology will not undermine protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court said police must obtain a warrant to search for information on a suspect’s cellphone.
Off-road vehicle damage in western North Dakota's Little Missouri Grasslands was described last week as "rampant" and "deplorable." It's worse. It's the result of thoughtless and arrogant behavior by off-roaders who qualify as lawless thugs. Forum News Service reporter Amy Dalrymple, who works out of Williston, wrote that recent cases of off-road vandalism involved pickup trucks and other vehicles that got stuck while "mudding" on U.S. Forest Service land.
North Dakotans have gotten used to monthly employment statistics that rank the state first in job creation in the nation, and for having the lowest unemployment rate among the states. It’s a remarkable achievement, driven not only by obvious job growth in the Oil Patch but also by a strong agriculture sector and a diversified economy in the state’s large and mid-sized cities.
The potential for North Dakota tourism to be bigger than it has historically been has never been better. The state has the resources to better sell its attractions, and the national exposure from oil development in the west offers a unique opportunity to showcase far more than oil country. All that’s needed now is a little legislative enlightenment. The North Dakota Tourism, Division, under the capable direction of Sara Otte Coleman, has made great strides in the past few years.
Trafficking in women and young girls for the purpose of prostitution is among a plethora of signs that North Dakota’s oil prosperity has a down side. Mounting evidence from law enforcement agencies and other sources cannot be minimized. Organized prostitution rings have moved into oil country for the same reason drug cartels are operating there: It’s where the money is. These are not misguided local folks trying to make a buck on the boom.
Another shoe dropped last week on a story that seems to have more feet than a centipede. The U.S. Department of Transportation ordered railroads to send states estimates of how much oil moves through their borders in railroad tank cars. The order was prompted by a “pattern of releases and fires involving petroleum crude oil shipments originating in the Bakken” oil play in North Dakota and Montana. It’s an emergency order. DOT recognizes that the danger of volatile Bakken crude, in combination with older tank cars that rupture in derailments, is a public safety emergency.