Isern comments far from truth

In the front page article in the February 9th Fargo Forum, Tom Isern stated, in so many words, that the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) has not gone the extra mile and taken the lead in protecting and preserving the 17,340 acres in his proposed study of the Killdeer Mountain battlefield area.

Posted March 28, 2014

Over 16,000 of those acres are PRIVATELY OWNED. We commend Fern Swenson, North Dakota’s deputy historic preservation director, for her comments acknowledging that protecting and preserving privately owned and held land is not within the mission nor the jurisdiction of the SHPO. For them to step outside of that, would be both negligent and remiss on their part. The ND state Historical Society owns the one acre Killdeer Battlefield State Historic Site and that is all they are obligated to protect and preserve. Furthermore, the proposed power line route does not even cross the Battlefield State Historic Site – the site is ¾ of a mile north of the proposed route.

In the article, Isern states that “shoddy and incomplete work has been done deliberately.” However, following our thorough review of Mr. Isern’s grant application – to the National Park Service to study the Killdeer Battlefield – it was very apparent that Isern’s claims of “shoddy and incomplete work” most accurately describe the quality of his own grant application.

The stated objective of his grant request is to “begin the National Register nomination process”, a designation that requires landowner acceptance and approval. Our examination of Isern’s NPS grant application reveals:

1) The NPS grant process requires public meetings to inform landowners and the public of the study, but to date no informational meetings have occurred. Landowners owning 95% of the proposed study area are entitled to information on the proposed study and what restrictions federal designation on the National Register of Historic Places would place on landowners’ use of their private property.

2) The application does not list all the private land owners in the proposed study area, contrary to the National Park Service’s grant requirement to “List all Land Owners in the project area whose property is involved in the project”. In fact, our names are not even listed.

3) The NPS grant application states “Also attach letters from EACH LAND OWNER (emphasis added) whose property requires access for this grant giving the applicant permission to undertake work on their property”. Isern’s application contains only one letter of support, from the Killdeer Mountain Alliance (KMA), representing two landowners who own 260 of the proposed 17,340 acre study area.

4) Isern states in his NPS grant application that “Participation of the KMA as well as the presence of State land will provide sufficient access to complete the goals of this project.” The State of North Dakota owns 991.5 acres in the proposed study area. Taken together with the 260 acres listed above, Isern is claiming that a combined total of 1,252 acres – a mere 7.2% of the total proposed study area – is “sufficient access” to complete the study.

In contrast, Basin Electric contacted all landowners at the very beginning of their process. It is important that the public is aware that Mr. Isern deliberately chose to seek his funding first without ever consulting those people whose private property he wished to involve in the proposed study. In a conversation with Mr. Isern he stated that he “doesn’t feel there is a need to bring the landowners on board until the 2nd year of the study, when he would have need of our property.” Based upon what we have observed, experienced and read throughout this entire debacle, it is our belief that there is

unquestionable deception by Mr. Isern, The Center for Heritage Renewal and The Killdeer Mountain Alliance.

Additionally, as Mr. Isern is a member of the faculty at NDSU, the citizens and taxpayers of ND should be asking why such behavior is allowed to continue under the umbrella of the university system; it seems fitting that a response from Dean Bresciani, President of NDSU or Larry Skogen, Chancellor of the ND University System is in order here. Remember gentlemen, the landowners of North Dakota will judge you by your actions – and the company you keep.

Since 1929, and long before any “studies” were proposed or funded, the Dvirnak family has worked diligently to protect both our land AND the site of the Battle of the Killdeer Mountains; this has been our choice and one we have been proud and privileged to undertake and one that we intend to continue on our privately owned land.


-Craig and Rhonda

Dvirnak, Killdeer, ND

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