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ND Group Celebrates 40 Years of Farm, Ranch Advocacy

The Dakota Resource Council counts reducing flaring from oil and gas operations among its victories over the past 40 years. (Dakota Resource Council)
The Dakota Resource Council counts reducing flaring from oil and gas operations among its victories over the past 40 years. (Dakota Resource Council)
October 26, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. – The Dakota Resource Council is celebrating 40 years of organizing farmers and ranchers to take on extractive industries and corporate farming.

Tomorrow, DRC members gather for its 40th annual meeting in Menoken to mark their successes in combating coal, oil and gas companies that they say conflict with agricultural producers' way of life in North Dakota.

Mark Trechock, director of DRC from 1993 to 2012, says the group has never been afraid to stand up to people in power. He remembers being in a meeting with other DRC members early in his job as they questioned the state's newest Public Service Commissioner.

"And she was really taken aback,” says Trechock. “And I just thought, 'Wow! This is really something. This bunch of farmers is taking [on] this state employee who's elected to office.' And she stood right up to them and she asked a lot of questions."

Trechock says that public service commissioner, Susan Wefald, ended up being a close ally of the organization.

Through its four-decade history, the DRC counts regulations on strip mining, more accountability for reclamation of mined lands, flaring reductions from oil and gas operations, and defense of the state's anti-corporate-farming law among its victories.

Before it became the DRC in 1978, the group started as the United Plainsmen, with the same mission it has today. The group came together to oppose 42 proposed coal gasification plants and mines across the state.

One of the United Plainsmen's co-founders, Paul Hessinger, says he was afraid North Dakota's landscape would be destroyed like Appalachia if someone didn't stand up to these companies.

"Basically, we had to put all this big stuff into a picture of getting out a press release a day, and warning people, 'Hey is this really the wave of the future?' Even as young kids, we had some vision,” says Hessinger. “Do we want our state to have a one-time harvest of coal and oil at the expense of everybody and everything?"

Ellen Chaffee, vice-president with North Dakotans for Public Integrity and also a DRC member, is keynote speaker at the meeting. She's supporting a measure on this year's ballot aimed at fighting corruption in politics.

She says that's the biggest threat to the environment and has long been a concern of the DRC.

"We need to re-balance the power of corporations versus the power of people,” says Chaffee. “We need to re-balance short-term and long-term thinking. And we need to re-balance the role of money versus the role of values in public life today."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND