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LETTER: Badlands’ scenic riches rival wealth underground

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DICKINSON, N.D. — Any fool can level a butte. After all, buttes can’t run away.

In the conversation about fracking in western North Dakota, we often speak of what’s underground rather than what’s within eyesight.

For much of this summer I have been walking throughout the national grasslands, climbing Square Butte, Bullion Butte, White Butte, Sentinel Butte, Camels Hump Butte and Tracy Mountain.

The views are stunning and, sometimes, are marred by our rapacious need to get oil from deep under Earth’s surface.

As I’ve been climbing, hiking and skipping along well-worn paths as well as in places where no paths exist, I’ve often wondered how many people have taken in the vistas from atop these magnificent buttes.

But buttes are not my only love in my peripatetic adventures: I love grass. I love how it sounds as wind fingers its way through blades of brown, green and blonde prairie grass. It seems to me that hardly anyone in North Dakota loves grass.

The legacy we are leaving is one that includes very little space for wildness and imagination.

The two owners of the Killdeer Mountains have gone on a witch hunt and closed public access — as if the amazing geological feature was ever anyone’s to own.

How soon will we see the Badlands — in areas that are privately owned — get shut down in the name of industrial progress?

Industrial progress is a crude practice, and it takes away from the public the opportunity to be continually falling in love with the land of western North Dakota.

It seems that the fools of western North Dakota will level anything in the name of financial gain. I cannot protect the buttes that I so desperately love; only Uncle Sam can do that.

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