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Dalrymple wants review of badlands tracts

FARGO - Gov. Jack Dalrymple wants to review a list of pristine badlands tracts that state game and fish officials have asked be spared from oil development.


FARGO - Gov. Jack Dalrymple wants to review a list of pristine badlands tracts that state game and fish officials have asked be spared from oil development.

The five-member state land board will meet in a special meeting today ahead of Tuesday's auction of mineral leases for more than 73,000 acres of state land.

Earlier, following a request by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the North Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society, the state land board decided to withhold 13 tracts totaling 1,683.6 acres from Tuesday's auction.

Altogether, game and fish officials and wildlife advocates have asked that 5,344 acres be withheld from mineral development. The areas are near Bullion Butte and the Kendley Plateau, badlands landmarks that remain roadless and eligible for designation as wilderness.

"That Game and Fish list should go through a review," Dalrymple told a Forum Communications editorial board Thursday. "Some of us, and I'm one of them, thought we should revisit this list that Game and Fish came up with."


Also, the governor said, the state lands department should come up with a procedure to identify sensitive public lands so they can be mapped in the event they are nominated for mineral leasing.

"We need to back up here a bit and we need to look at these parcels and we have to have a process," Dalrymple said. "We need some criteria," including what qualifies as valuable wildlife habitat.

Broader view

The special meeting to revisit the list of land parcels with conservation value follows a request by a state lawmaker who serves on the Senate Natural Resources Committee to improve the vetting process for leasing public lands.

Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, wrote the head of the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands a letter asking for a review of state mineral leasing practices in a letter hand-delivered Wednesday.

Revenues from leases of state lands go into a trust fund to help fund public schools and other educational institutions.

Triplett urges state land officials to take a broader view of the value of state line. She cited a state law defining the "highest and best use" as "that use of a parcel of land which will most likely produce the most benefit to the state and its inhabitants ... ."

She added: "Given the rate of oil development on private land and the ongoing rush by oil companies to protect the leases they already have in place, it seems to me that this would be a very good time to pause in the process of leasing state minerals and take the time to consult seriously and openly with other state agencies, federal agencies which manage land in North Dakota, tribal governments which may be aware of culturally important sites off-reservation any other interested groups and the public."

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