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Will ND Gov. Burgum Join Roosevelt's Legacy of Protecting Nature?

An oil refinery has been proposed near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (jb10okie/Flickr)
An oil refinery has been proposed near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (jb10okie/Flickr)
February 22, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. - What will Gov. Doug Burgum's legacy be on protecting North Dakota's landscape? The Dakota Resource Council believes he could enter the pantheon of leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt and former North Dakota Gov. Art Link, if he chooses.

Marie Hoff, a board member at the council, pointed to Burgum's past commitment to preserving the land, a conservation easement he signed in 2011 on his ranch land near Theodore Roosevelt National Park before he took office. However, Hoff said he's been quiet on an oil refinery that would be three miles outside the park.

"The larger area there, what is it going to be? You know, are you going to have an industrialized, huge area right next door to a park? That's part of where Gov. Burgum could be challenged to enlarge his vision a little bit of the larger area there." Hoff said.

There also is tension between allowing development near the park at the same time that Burgum pushes for construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in the state, Hoff said, given Roosevelt's famous national parks legacy. She noted that DRC is not opposed to oil and gas development, but thinks the Davis refinery could mar visitors' experience of the park.

The refinery has overcome initial legal objections, but a coalition of groups, including DRC, is considering a number of ways to challenge the refinery on permitting. Hoff said she believes Burgum has an important leadership role in cases such as this.

"Gov. Burgum could end up in the company of people like Teddy Roosevelt and Gov. Link if he could think about having a vision and leaving a real and lasting legacy regarding North Dakota's land," she said, "and particularly the western North Dakota beauty that we all really cherish."

Link is known for a 1973 speech in which he spoke of a time after development, "when the landscape is quiet again." In the speech, Link said North Dakotans would be worthy of their land's heritage and resources only if they left the land "as good and, in some cases, better than before."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND