From the Newsroom: Our oil boom a Catch-22?

North Dakota currently is a state overwhelmed by an unprecedented oil boom and everybody that lives and works here knows it and feels it on a daily basis.

Bryce Martin
Bryce Martin


Herald Editor

Posted Feb. 8, 2013 

North Dakota currently is a state overwhelmed by an unprecedented oil boom and everybody that lives and works here knows it and feels it on a daily basis.

Last week, I wrote a story outlining an area study focusing on the Bakken oil boom’s effects and a generalization of what it will mean for us years down the road based upon similar mineral booms within the country. Its findings weren’t much of a surprise – it pointed out the short-term effects we’re already feeling and the long-term effects most already are predicting.

Then there are the effects unforeseen on paper, namely drilling atop the Killdeer Mountains.

To ensure recovery of a meager amount of fossil fuels, which seems minimal on a larger scale, the state of North Dakota is allowing an oil company to disrupt a documented historical site and inhibit the natural beauty of one of our area’s largest landmarks.

And it’s a problem not only facing North Dakota – oil drilling taking precedent over regional beauty and aesthetic pleasures.

Since the 1970s, there has been an ongoing controversy on whether to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, also called the “1002 Area.” It consists of 1.5 million acres on the northeastern plain of Alaska. While the controversy there stems from what potential effects would be on the dramatic number of wildlife sheltered within that area, it is not too dissimilar from our own quandary here in Killdeer, albeit on a much larger scale.

The United States Geological Survey estimated that between 5.67 and 16.1 billion barrels of crude oil and natural gas are contained within the 1002 Area. Nearly 3.5 million oil barrels are estimated to be located under the surface in Killdeer.

A bill was signed into law in 1980 that established parks and refuges in the Alaskan area. Oil drilling was permitted on the land, but not without approval by Congress, which is where both sides of the issue focused – groups lobbied to ensure Congress would favor their particular side. The debate continues, but has lost momentum in the previous years.

While both issues deal with drilling in sensitive areas, unlike the land in Alaska, our area is only protected by public outcry. But the state’s oil and gas commission issued its unsavory decision on mountain drilling and the issue seems to have propelled its way out from the hands of the people. There are few to no options left before we see the massive drilling equipment maneuver its way onto the beautiful, peaceful mountain slopes.

The effects of drilling on the Killdeer Mountains have been identified and discussed, but remained in the back of the politicians’ minds as they ruled to permit the mountain drilling.

It is shameful because what rests in the Killdeer Mountains is sacred to both American and Native American histories.

Killdeer Mountains served as battleground in an expedition against the Sioux around 1864. During the winter, a plan was formulated to end the war with the Sioux. Nearly 2,500 men would be led into the field to find Native Americans and engage them in battle. On July 26, 1864, the plan was enacted and, two days later, they arrived near the Native American camp, reportedly which included about 6,000 warriors. Heavy fighting ensued across a stretch of nearly nine miles. Killdeer Mountain ultimately broke the back of the Sioux resistance.

The land also maintains intrinsic spiritual value to Native Americans in the area.

While the nation as a whole mostly benefits from the oil boom, it is true that it is pinching at our pockets with the often staggering price increase of goods and services in the area, it is contributing to record amounts of crime, work-related injuries and deaths, it is creating unprecedented surges in traffic, it is putting pressure on our community infrastructure, and now it is polluting our historical center of beauty that are the Killdeer Mountains.

Will it be worth it and can it be sustained?

Local oil and natural gas exploration isn’t easy, but it may be necessary. It is one major step to help ease us from this country’s outstanding foreign oil dependence. Regardless of where the next drill site is, it always will maintain both its positive and negative aspects.

Contact Bryce Martin at

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