JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Herb Meschke: A Brilliant Mind In A Broken Body

They’ll bury Herb Meschke later this week. I don’t know if it will be in the North Dakota Bad Lands, where he was born and raised, or in Minot, where he spent most of his life. Wherever it is, his presence will enhance the stature of the cemetery.

Herb Meschke
Herb Meschke

Herb was a cowboy, a lawyer, a legislator, a judge and a family man. He took all of those jobs seriously. And he was pretty good at them.

He died at home Friday. There’ll be a Methodist funeral for him Wednesday. His death marks the end of a life at the center of some of North Dakota’s most interesting political stories. I’m going to tell a couple. First, some background. I like revisiting old political stories, and Herb’s death gives me the opportunity to do that. I think he’d approve.

Because most people who knew Herb in the past 65 or 70 years of his remarkable 89-year life never saw him wearing anything but a suit and tie or a judicial robe, they don’t know about his cowboy background. He was born on a ranch north of Medora, N.D., and according to those who knew him, was a strapping young cowboy when he went off to college in the late 1940s.

It was sometime during his college or law school years, friends tell me, he was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis. Most of us who knew him as an adult never saw him stand erect. He walked hunched over, having to turn his head slightly to look up when he was having a standing conversation. That’s how we all remember him, short, hunched over, walking with a cane. All his adult life. Gary Williamson, his seatmate in the 1965 Legislature, said Herb kept a bottle of aspirin on his desk and would just pop a handful into his mouth from time to time to ease the pain of the arthritis.

That 1965 session was the beginning of one of the political stories of his life. In the 1964 election, the Johnson landslide, the last time a Democrat presidential candidate carried North Dakota, Herb, Gary and three other Young Turk Democrats — Larry Erickson, Bob Schoenwald and Wayne Sanstead — rode that landslide into the Legislature, defeating all the Republican incumbents except the venerable (even then) Brynhild Haugland.

According to Williamson, they arrived in Bismarck as “Brynhild’s Boys.” She was in charge of the Minot delegation from Day 1, determined not to let Minot suffer because it was represented by five young freshmen (even though the Democrats were in the majority). She found them seats, got them committee assignments beneficial to Minot and probably directed to some extent how they voted on the floor.

That was one of only two legislative sessions Democrats were the majority party. It’s fun to look at the list of House members that session whose names you might remember, in addition to Sanstead, who held statewide office longer than almost anyone in our state’s history (Can you say Ben Meier?), and Meschke, a Supreme Court justice for almost 15 years. It included Richard Backes, Lee Christensen, Oscar Solberg, Buckshot Hoffner, Treadwell Haugen, Tom Stallman, Clarence “Chief” Poling and Art Link, who was speaker of the House that session. Most of them were just getting their start on distinguished political careers in North Dakota.

An interesting side note: The only two years Democrats held the majority of seats in the North Dakota House, in 1965 and 1983, five men served in both those sessions: Sanstead, Backes, Hoffner, Solberg and Olaf Opedahl. The House was tied in the 1977 session, and Solberg served as Speaker by consensus of both parties, showing the respect he had from Republicans. In the days when Republicans and Democrats actually got along. Sigh.

But back to Herb Meschke. Herb served just that one term in the House (House terms were just two years back then) and the next year, he ran for and was elected to the state Senate. Only four Democrats were elected to the Senate that year, and they joined holdover George Rait as the smallest Democratic-NPL caucus ever (although modern day Democrats are headed that way, to challenge them — there were just nine this year).

Williamson and Sanstead were re-elected to the House, and after serving in the majority in 1965, were among just 14 Democratic-NPL House members out of 99 representatives that session. Democrats eclipsed that record this past session with just 13 out of 94.

Herb’s other memorable role was in January 1985, the time when North Dakota had two governors. I wrote about that a few years ago, and you can go back and read it if you want to by clicking here. But let me summarize and point out that I’ve actually learned (actually, remembered) a little more about that incident in the last few years since I wrote that post.

Sinner was elected governor in the November 1984 election. In those days governors legally took office Jan. 1, but traditionally waited until the first day of the Legislature, which was the first Tuesday after the first Monday of January. In 1985, that was Jan. 8. After this crisis, the Legislature changed the date of the new term to Dec. 15.

Between the tine of the election and Jan. 1, two vacancies occurred on the North Dakota Supreme Court — a justice died and another announced he was about to resign, which meant the governor got to appoint two Supreme Court Justices, surely plum appointments for any governor. Per North Dakota law, a Judicial Nominating Committee advertised for applicants, and receiving them, announced it would recommend candidates for the governor to choose from, on Jan. 4—whomever the governor was that day.

So Allen Olson, who had decided to stick around until the Legislature convened Jan. 8, as tradition held, was going to make two appointments before he left office. Sinner decided not to let that happen. Since legally he was entitled to take office Jan. 1, according to an opinion issued by Olson a few years earlier when he was attorney general, he did just that.

Olson objected and hunkered down in his office and refused to leave, now claiming that he could, by tradition, remain in office until the Legislature came to town. Sinner set up shop in the governor’s residence — remember, Olson had decided not to live there, remaining in his own house high atop a hill in north Bismarck, something a lot of people viewed as arrogance, probably contributing some to his defeat by Sinner.

So we had two governors for a few days, until the new attorney general, Nick Spaeth, convinced the Supreme Court to take the case immediately and decide who the governor was, and in a matter of hours, the court decided Sinner was entitled to the office. Note that all of the sitting justices except the chief justice recused themselves, and Chief Justice Ralph Erickstad appointed four district court judges and told them to get their tails to Bismarck and hear the case. So it was those four men — Maurice Hunke of Dickinson, A.C. Bakken of Grand Forks, Norman Backes of Fargo and  Benny Graf of Bismarck, who held the fate of the next two Supreme Court Justices in their hands.

Interestingly, Erickstad, a known Republican (he had served three sessions in the North Dakota Senate as a Republican before being elected to the court) appointed three pretty well-known Democrats — Bakken, Backes and Graf — to decide who the governor was, and who would make the next two Supreme Court appointments. And they chose Sinner, the Democrat. It really was a question of law, though, not politics, so there was nothing untoward in their decision, that I can tell.

I think Olson really didn’t want that confrontation, or to have his term in office end that way, but there must have been tremendous pressure on him from some in the Republican Party to claim those two Supreme Court seats. Rumors have floated around for years, but I’ve never been able to confirm them, so I won’t repeat them. I’m sure Mark Andrews would appreciate that.

There were known Republicans — Ward Kirby of Dickinson, Vern Neff of Williston and Rolf Sletten of Bismarck — on the Judicial Nominating Committee list submitted to Sinner, and some known Democrats — Herb Meschke and Jim Maxson of Minot and J. Philip Johnson of Fargo, and two suspected Democrats, Bill Neumann of Rugby and  Beryl Levine of Fargo.

Sinner chose Meschke and Levine. He and most North Dakota Democrats, probably would have liked to appoint Meschke and Maxson, but he just couldn’t appoint two from the same town. And he just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to appoint the first woman ever to the North Dakota Supreme Court.

That he chose Meschke over Maxson probably had something to do with a little leaning from Meschke’s old colleagues in the 1965 Legislature, Richard Backes and Larry Erickson, both of whom were close to Sinner and had helped in the Minot area on his campaign, and the fact Sinner had served across the hall in the state Senate from Meschke, and his House colleagues that session, Erickson, Backes, Williamson, Schoenwald and Sanstead. Meschke and Sinner also served together as delegates to the ill-fated 1972 North Dakota Constitutional Convention.

Maxson went on to his own political career, being elected to the state Senate in 1986 and again in 1990. He holds the distinction of being the only Democrat to serve four sessions in the North Dakota Legislature and never serve in the minority. Democrats had a majority in the Senate in 1987, ’89, ’91 and ’93 in 1994 (Yes, North Dakota Democrats, there once was a time, and a place called Camelot). In 1994, Maxson went back to Minot to resume his law practice full time.

Johnson and Neuman, by the way, did end up on the Supreme Court later, but no such luck for the three Republicans.

Herb’s appointment to the court in January was the subject of some controversy. Some Republicans dragged out old newspaper stories from the 1960s First Western Bank scandal, in which most of the Democratic-NPL crew from that 1965 legislative session — Backes, Erickson, Williamson and Meschke — were indicted for some alleged banking and campaign practice crimes.

Wanting to keep up with the Republicans in the financial world, they had started their own bank in Minot and were accused by Nixon-era prosecutors of playing a little fast and loose with banking and campaign regulations. All, including Meschke, their lawyer, were either acquitted or had charges dropped, but it sullied Meschke’s entrance into the judiciary. First Western Bank, ironically, is now owned by North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven.

Herb was elected to a four-year term on the Court in 1986 and a full 10-year term in 1990, took early retirement in 1999, moved back to Minot and practiced law a little bit and did some writing. The last time I saw him was at Gov. Bill Guy’s funeral a few years ago. He was still this hunched-over little man, a brilliant mind trapped in broken body.

I loved that little man, mostly from afar, because of what he accomplished in spite of his physical handicap and the lifetime of pain he tolerated to be an active part of North Dakota history. And also partly because he was wise enough to marry a girl from my hometown, Shirley McNeil from Hettinger, N.D. Shirley survives him.  She spent a lifetime taking care of Herb. God bless her. I wish her all the best in the rest of her years.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Who’s Looking Out For The Little Missouri State Scenic River — Redux

I’ve given some more thought to the issue of Little Missouri River water permits since I last wrote about it May 3.

I reported then that Gov. Doug  Burgum had signed into law an amendment to the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act, making industrial use of Little Missouri water legal for the first time since the act was passed in 1975. But at the same time he sent word over to the State Water Commission, which issues water permits in our state, not to issue any of those permits in the upstream reaches of the river — between the North Dakota-South Dakota border and the Long-X Bridge at the north Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Quick geography lesson for those not familiar with the Little Missouri: It rises in the hills north of Devils Tower in Wyoming and flows north through Montana and South Dakota, entering North Dakota in the extreme southwest part of the state, and flows north and east into Lake Sakakawea east of Killdeer. Carving the North Dakota Bad Lands, home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, along the way.

It’s that stretch between the North Unit of the National Park and the big lake that Burgum has left open for industrial development. It’s no coincidence that the focus of oil development along the river is along that stretch.

That’s his concession to the oil industry. In fact, his own Water Commission staff admitted to a reporter for The Dickinson Press the other day that “That’s where most of the oil industry activity has been.” Commission engineer Jon Patch said “They’ve been using local supplies that then pipe the water to nearby wells that are ready to be fracked.”

Using that water illegally, until now, it should be pointed out. There’s still the issue of those 600 permits that were granted by Patch and his staff, illegally, over the past 10 years or so. It appears that nothing is going to be done about that. As far as the state is concerned, that’s water under the bridge, so to speak.

I asked the governor’s spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, if there were going to be any repercussions for the noncompliance with state law by the Water Commission staff. You’ll recall from an earlier story I wrote the staff said they were “unaware” of the law that prohibited them from issuing industrial water permits from the State Scenic River. I pointed out to Nowatzki that, generally, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Nowatzki wrote back, “As for the “noncompliance” issue, I’m not aware of any related legal actions/proceedings and I’m unable to provide any legal opinions.”

Well, he’s right, but there is someone who can provide legal opinions — the attorney general. So I fired off an e-mail to Liz Brocker, Wayne Stenehjem’s spokesperson: What is going to be done about the “noncompliance” with the law by the State Water Commission staff for the past 10 years?”

Liz answered politely: “With regard to the questions … whether there is a criminal violation of a statute would be under the jurisdiction of the county state’s attorney who would make a determination based on the evidence following an investigation. The Water Commission is a state agency headed by the governor, so any determination on whether further action is necessary or appropriate would properly need to be addressed there.”

Well, I thought her response was pretty nifty, in tossing the ball in two different directions: It’s the governor’s job to determine if he wants to fire someone, and it’s the local state’s attorney who would have to investigate and file any charges for violating the law.

Nowatzki had sort of already indicated that the governor was not interested in punishing the Water Commission staff. I thought about contacting the Burleigh County State’s Attorney and asking him if he was going to pursue this, but we’ve been in the middle of crime wave here since the oil boom began, and he has enough stuff on his plate right now without chasing after some doofus state employee who claims he didn’t know about the law that regulates his job.

I asked a former Water Commission staff member this week whether it was really possible that the engineers didn’t know they were breaking the law. The response was, yes, it’s possible. But it was also possible that they were operating under orders from above to help out the oil industry regardless of the law. Not much happened at the Water Commission during the Dalrymple years without clearance from the governor’s office. One of the most important things the governor could do to enable the oil boom was to make sure they had water for fracking. Without water, there’s no fracking. Without fracking, there’s no oil boom.

So that’s where things stand for now, at least as long as Burgum is governor. He has shown some concern for the Little Missouri State Scenic River but has also accommodated the oil industry. We’ll keep an eye on the process. We’ll see how many industrial water permits get issued. And we’ll certainly ask anyone who decides to run for governor in the future whether they’ll keep Burgum’s restrictions in place.

THE GOOD NEWS

Now, then I want to also revisit a piece of good news about the Little Missouri. Last December, just as the governor was taking office, I took advantage of an old friendship with his new chief of staff (I think he calls her the CEO), Jodi Uecker, and urged her to ask her boss to please revive what I have always considered an important board, the Little Missouri Scenic River Commission. I had written a couple of blog pieces about it earlier last year and placed articles in a couple of other publications I write for, and I shared those with her. You can read them here and here.

Well, Jodi listened. And her boss listened to her. And a couple of weeks ago, he instructed the state engineer, who heads the Water Commission staff, to do just that. It might take a while to get going. It has met only once since 2001 (only coincidentally, the year Ed Schafer, the last North Dakota governor to give a rat’s ass about the Bad Lands and the Little Missouri, left office and turned the governor’s office over to the Hoeven/Dalrymple administration).

The way it works is, as outlined in the Little Missouri Scenic River Act of 1975, Section 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code, each county commission in the six Bad Lands counties appoints one member, who must be a rancher who owns property adjacent to the Little Missouri River, and those six serve with the state engineer, the State Parks and Recreation director and the director of the State Health Department on the nine-member commission. The six ranchers elect a chairman from among their ranks, and the Parks director serves as the recording secretary for the commission.

Officially, it is the duty of the chairman to call meetings, but unofficially, it has been the Parks director who really gets it done (the current chairman, Alvin Nelson of Grassy Butte, has been dead for several years). I went on a search for meeting minutes about a year ago, and what I learned is that the only meeting held since 2001 was actually called in response to a request from the KLJ Engineering firm, to seek the commission’s blessing for a proposed new river crossing in Billings County. That was August 29, 2007. Nearly 10 years ago.

At that meeting, KLJ, working for the Billings County Commission (Medora is the county seat, in case you’re wondering where Billings County is) said as soon as it had prepared the Environmental Impact Statement for the project, it would get back in touch with the commission to present its findings and seek permission to go ahead with the project.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the meeting minutes:

“The specific purpose of requesting the meeting, KLJ noted, is to seek guidance from the Little Missouri Scenic River Commission, if the river crossing structure alternatives comply with the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act … KLJ concluded their presentation and asked whether any of these types of river crossings (low water crossings or bridges) would be in violation of the Little Missouri River Act.”

“The Commission noted as this project progresses and specific alternatives are recommended for both structure type and location, the commission will need to be presented with detailed information fully addressing the scope and impact of this project to the Little Missouri River. Only then will the commission consider the project for compliance with NDCC 61-29.”

Well, how about that. Now, 10 years later, after numerous delays, KLJ is just weeks, maybe days, away from releasing that EIS. And it is pretty obvious, from those minutes, that both the engineering firm and the state of North Dakota took the responsibility of the commission pretty seriously back in 2007. I hope they still do.

KLJ will be coming looking for the Little Missouri Scenic River Commission to present it to. I hope the state engineer, who has been tasked with reviving it, can get it done in time to weigh in on the project because it has the potential to be the worst environmental disaster ever to hit the Bad Lands.

You see, there was no oil boom — not even a hint of an oil boom to come — back in 2007, so this was a pretty routine request. A new bridge for the ranchers and tourists to use. No one envisioned a miles-long caravan of trucks kicking up thousands of tons of dust a day and scaring off every type of wildlife within eyesight and earshot, while using this crossing of the Little Missouri River to move their water, sand and oil.

So while Gov. Burgum is willing to sell off the northernmost portion of the river, which makes me nervous because it contains Little Missouri State Park, arguably the state’s most fragile and scenic park, which means we’re going to have to keep a close eye on water permit requests for that stretch of the river, he seems committed to offer some protection for the upstream parts of the river.

I hope he kicks the state engineer in the ass and has him get this done right damn now. The oil industry, the Billings County Commission and the bridges they want, wait for no man. The Little Missouri State Scenic River needs all the oversight it can get. That was the intent of the 1975 Legislature. I’ll report back when the EIS is released.

RON SCHALOW: Kevin Cramer Must Go

It’s not even a close call, so save the coin toss. Cramer takes North Dakotans for granted and assumes he’s in a safe district. Why, because he’s such a charmer?

Guess again, smirk-boy. Smug-boy. Whatever. I’m older than the kid, so I can say that. Plus, I don’t care. I don’t feel any pleasantness oozing from my aura.

After decades of government jobs, by appointment or election, it’s time for Kevin Cramer to be forced to get a job where he can do less damage.

In case you were wondering, Kevin Cramer will vote for the user’s manual of a Hamilton Beach four-slice toaster if the order comes down from the repellent Munster kid — or the Denny’s menu-signing circus peanut. He has no personal integrity. No brain, no strain.

Our congressman voted it’s on the record to cruelly send millions of the people, “on our side,” to their graves, including innocent children, and 7 million veterans. Never underestimate what this @$$hole will do.

Who needs ISIS or the North Korean fat kid? Just cool your jets, fellas. We’ve got the “death to America” stuff covered by the Party of Lincoln. They’ve had some philosophical changes in the past 150 years, which Abe never endorsed — or ever envisioned.

Their antics probably crossed Stephen King’s mind, though. The health care horror story is likely on its way to Barnes and Nobles, as the representatives celebrate with foreign beer and domestic strippers.

We hire the weasels, send them where all of the lobbyists hang, pay them handsomely, give most of them too much respect, and they hurriedly plot our demise. Drive-through suicide, the Trump hatchlings call it. Bodies will be catapulted over the wall.

Donald Trump said “everyone” would be covered. That was a lie. We’ve seen this con before, and it wasn’t on the midway, where the Trump cousins hand out bags of water and a small orange carp. Bait, depending on the locale. It wasn’t a little white lie, either. It was a Trump-sized and textured, pile of horse$#!*. Kevin Cramer doesn’t care.

Not that anyone paying attention should be surprised. Our congressman has always been a tool.

He doesn’t even try to hide it. Did he know that his oil buddies were sending 30,000 gallon soup cans of butane, methane, propane, ethane and other explosive gases, mixed with the fine Bakken crude, down the rail? Sure. Did he care? Nope. Even when 47 Quebecers died, it didn’t faze him.

When it was determined that 60 to 70 would likely die in a Fargo or Bismarck Bakken train explosion, it didn’t faze him. Cramer won’t cross the North Dakota Petroleum Council. The same could be said for the North Dakota GOP. Smaller weasels. Possibly voles.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Sen. Schumer care, though. And quite a few other politicians throughout the nation, who don’t want their constituents vaporized.

What bothers Cramer, is women wearing white in front of the president. Big Don could have figured that his Klan pals were in the house, or he could have gotten confused about the venue. Trump’s not too sharp — and often gets makeup in his eyes. He might have thrown out the first pitch to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who rarely carries her catcher’s mitt in public but is considered a splendid receiver.

Meanwhile, at the same event, the dignified Congressmen Cramer, seething in the standard male uniform, yelped like an excited Mexican Chihuahua hombre pup, when the Trumpmeister announced the go-ahead for the Dakota Access pipeline.

Kevin is fascinated with, and has an abnormal love for, a carbon-based liquid, that began its development through one of the quirks of nature, that took place a few million years ago — it wasn’t a given that it would exist— but proved to be useful, when humans decided they needed one-day delivery on 16-foot-long $600 ties from the Trump Collection. The great man spit on each one, which makes them collectors items — or evidence.

I considered some Trump Fragrance, but who wants to smell like an obese sweaty golfer — and crocodile breath? I can handle that myself, without taking out a loan. Melania is said to love the odor, which is one of the reasons why she lives so close — 200 miles is about right — to the lumpy beast. I’m not talking about their pet camel, Wally. He smells like waffles.

Cramer is talking like Trump, much more lately, which leads some people to think that he’s losing his grip on the reality thing. Classic Trump.

Crying about some people being mean to him because he can’t answer basic questions at one his “town halls” in the Socialist Republic of Fargo. Then he runs to Rob Port, on WDAY-AM in Fargo, to complain about his constituents and claim that he was set up for something, by the group Indivisible. It’s a lie, but like Trump, it doesn’t matter.

A group wants to drop off some petitions at his office. But they can’t, because the office is supposedly closed, and three regulation-size cops are on hand to keep two small scary women from entering the office building.

Cramer’s story, also shared with his pal Port on WDAY-AM, is that the owner of the building knew a loitering horde had broken through the perimeter weeks ago, plenty of time to have the police on hand. But the congressman had no clue. Plus, he’s so unconnected with the humans in Fargo, he could not find one person to man the office for 30 minutes. Another crock of $#!*, but he’s sticking to it. Crafty women! Always taking advantage of Kevin.

Sean Spicer, the press secretary for the president, thought it was a good idea (it wasn’t) to compare Syrian President al-Assad to Hitler, saying that good old Adolf wasn’t so unhinged, as to use chemical weapons (on the battlefield). Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Cue Cramer. Stupid? Pshaw. That’s his specialty. Because he’s such a powerful member of the House — and not too bright —  Kevin jumps into the outhouse pit without reservation. Sean was “technically” right, he claims. This Hitler story is being distorted by the media and their fancy digital movie cameras. Well, Spicer had already apologized and likely wanted to hide under his bed until after the impeachment. Cramer just looked like a doofus. Perfect Trump material.

Back before the election, when Kevin did think he was Trump material, and a valued adviser, he prepped the grabby, disabled mocking, bastage for his speech in Bismarck, dreaming of being named Energy secretary. Actually, Cramer was the perfect person to ruin the department and do away with the silly protections for water, air and people. When will the government ever get its boot off the throat of the most profitable industry the world has ever known, and set them free to make real money?

After the speech, experts, real experts, wrote that it was as if Trump didn’t understand the basics of the marketplace. He certainly had no clue about coal. The coal industry is dying due to the free market, and it will never employ as many men it did in the heyday in the Appalachians, when it treated the workers like bad meat and simply buried the ones who died on their feet, in the woods, and then sent another one into the hole. The black lung was free, though.

Now, mechanization has replaced humans, and they blow up a mountain just to claim a small seam of coal, and scrape up the black chunks with huge payloaders. Luckily, thanks to Trump, the companies don’t need to worry about the coal crap that ends up in the streams — and gives the water some flavor. This is Cramer’s man. An idiot.

Kevin has always been a little nutty. He seems to delight in taking things away, like food from kids, then whipping out his holy interpretation of the Bible, which reads differently than my copy — or the one that Trump carries around as a prop.

Cramer has to go. He is not a nice man — or a good man. People that know him well, and relations say this. Now, it’s clear that he could care less about our lives, either jeopardized through the lack of access to health care or the indifference to public safety.

Some will say that Cramer acts kindly to certain individuals, which is great, but his responsibility carries greater weight than the neighbor with the kind heart. Millions are left hanging in the wind if this preposterous health care bill should survive the process, which is apparently what our congressman wants. He friggen voted for it. He lacks empathy, trustworthiness, credibility, and he’s a major suck up. He’s not statesman. He’s a lemming. A sheep. A snowflake. UnAmerican.

You’re Only as Good as the Company You Keep

Cramer’s adoration for Trump should make every self-respecting North Dakotan gag. I could go on forever about Trump’s transgressions that affected the poor, minorities, honest craftsmen, women, ripped off students, blah, blah, bah. Plus, it’s on the record.

Donnie lied 555 times in his first 100 days in a job that requires a qualified adult, a truth teller and not a bullshitter. He has proven that he hasn’t the part of the brain that keeps normal people from lying once per minute — and not caring.

Trump is an admitted sex offender. It wasn’t locker room talk. It was admission of an assault. I’ve been in plenty of locker rooms, and BS like grabbing a woman by the @#&*%$# is the obvious crude braggadocio of a sleazy bloviating jackass and would be treated accordingly. Cleats to the balls, 5-iron to the throat or basketball to the face. Something painful, instead of the whimpering of apologists, like Cramer, who aren’t fond of women in the first place.

Does Kevin approve of a grown man taking a stroll through a dressing room of teenage girls? If he approves of Trump, he does.

How about the cheating on all of his wives?

How about his funny disabled man imitation?

How about his snide remark about a news reporter’s menstrual cycle?

How about Trump’s general lack of morals? Sociopathy?

Flip, flop, flop, cough, gibberish. Which of the policies that Trump has today appeal to our congressman? Not those of yesterday, or this morning, or tomorrow, or the second part of his last sentence, but this moment.

Russia, Russia, Russia.

Hot off the press: “100 Days of Accomplishments Under Trump,” by Kevin Cramer, which puts an end to any speculation to whom our congressman is loyal. If it’s not to the people of this state, what good is he?

Just for Members of the North Dakota Legislature Who Support Trump and Won’t Accept the Facts Behind Their Own Actions, Who also Need to be Retired

One Topic — Oil Taxes

Members of the North Dakota GOP, and their shills, continue to deny that the oil extraction tax was cut in 2015 by the Legislature. They lie. Our state has lost millions of dollars of revenue to out-of-state oil barons. Meanwhile, some of our most vulnerable citizens continue to suffer.

The tax deniers want people to believe that taking to two unrelated issues, mashing them together and calling it reform, obscures the fact that taxes were unnecessarily cut for global oil companies. They can call it reform, form-fitting, secret formula, formaldehyde, formidable, or anything else, but it’s still a tax cut.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — No Veto, But No More Industrial Permits, Either — At Least For A While; A Partial Victory For The Little Missouri River

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum may not have been in politics very long, but he has learned the No. 1 rule already: Politics is the art of compromise.

To that end, the governor DID NOT veto the section of North Dakota House Bill 1020, which now that it is law, legalizes the issuance of industrial water permits from the Little Missouri River, a practice which had been going on illegally for many years If you’re not familiar with that, read this).

But in signing the bill into law Tuesday, he issued what Donald Trump might wave in the air as an “executive order,” declaring that no new permits will be issued for nonagricultural use of water (fracking) until new rules are written governing those permits. Those new rules are likely to address use by counties to draw water to keep the dust down on gravel roads but hopefully will ban water for fracking. That’s probably OK. We’ll see what they say.

Generally, this is an acceptable compromise, I think, with those of us concerned about the industrialization of the Little Missouri River — with one exception — and it might turn out to be a pretty big one. The governor’s order applies to the Little Missouri between the South Dakota border and the Long X Bridge over the river at U.S. Highway 85, on the east end of the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park south of Watford City. That’s about 85 percent of the river’s 275-mile length in North Dakota.

But it doesn’t apply to the section of the river between the Long X Bridge and where it flows into Lake Sakakawea, a distance of about 40 miles, mostly in Dunn County, and that last 15 percent is in an area that has been the hot spot of oil activity in the Little Missouri Bad Lands.

My friends who keep their eyes on oil activity in threatened areas tell me there are a number of large applications in process or pending just east of the Long X Bridge, and there’s a lot of Forest Service and BLM land that could be affected if industrial activity is allowed, including some incredible landscapes and wildlife habitat, as well as multigenerational ranches.

So, we will need to keep a close eye on this process, which the governor is going to make easier for us because he has ordered the Water Commission staff to make “the process and requirements for future issuance of temporary use permits for nonagricultural uses” transparent. Believe me, we’ll be taking advantage of that order. Looking at every permit.

Further, he ordered the Water Commission staff to make public all available data on the temporary use permits issued since 1990 and to do a preliminary report on that within 60 days. By July 1. Maybe we’ll read in that about the rancher along the river who sold the water from his temporary use permit to an oil company for more than $700,000 back in 2012 and 2013.

And as for those 600-plus illegal water permits issued by the Water Commission the last few years, the governor explained it this way:

“Recently, a State Water Commission hydrologist uncovered the 1975 law. A decades-long lapse in awareness and in practice has brought us to today.”

Well, OK. It just seems a little strange that the people who are responsible for issuing all the water permits in the state of North Dakota wouldn’t know the law, but that’s their story. I hope they are telling the truth and not covering up for some superior (prior to Burgum, maybe named John or Jack), who told them to go ahead and issue the permits in violation of the law — oil booms and all the money that accompanies them can cause people to do strange things.

But at the same time, if they are telling the truth, it’s kind of disappointing that they wouldn’t know the law they are charged with upholding and enforcing. The engineers responsible aren’t some rookies right out of college — they’ve been career employees and have risen to the positions of director and assistant director of a division of one of the most important agencies in state government. How could they not know the law? Well, anyway …

The best news of all from the governor this morning is that he has decided to revive the Little Missouri Scenic River Commission, the board created by the State Scenic River Act in 1975 to monitor development along the river. Some of us have been urging the governor to do that since we discovered a couple of years ago that it hasn’t met since 2007. You can read more about that here. If that board had been active the past 10 years, none of those illegal industrial permits would have been issued.

I consider the governor’s order a major victory for the Little Missouri State Scenic River. I’m going to the first meeting. Where hopefully they’ll be talking about the two proposed new bridges across the Little Missouri River. But that’s a story for another day.

So. The hundreds of people who contacted the governor and asked him to veto the law got half a loaf — maybe more. Now we will all know what has been going on, and we will have a chance for input and reaction to what goes on in the future (I just caught myself before I said “going forward” there, a phrase I hate). Constant vigilance will be necessary now. I think we’re up to it.

Gov. Burgum expressed concern for the Little Missouri River. Rightfully so. He owns ranchland on the river.

Gov. Doug Burgum expressed concern for the Little Missouri River. Rightfully so. He owns ranchland on the river.

Here’s the letter I got from the governor this morning, as did the others who contacted him about this:

Thank you for your input on House Bill 1020. I appreciate your concerns and would like to take this opportunity to explain why I have signed the bill into law.

As governor, a North Dakota resident and a property owner on the Little Missouri River, protecting our environment and being responsible stewards of our natural resources is a priority for me personally and for our administration.

The Legislature enacted a chapter of law called the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act (LMSSRA) in 1975 to preserve the Little Missouri River as nearly as possible in a free-flowing natural condition, and to establish the Little Missouri River (LMR) commission.

Records pertaining to LMSSRA indicate that it was enacted primarily because of concerns over several energy projects having interest in dams and diversions for purposes of coal gasification or electricity generation.

The legislation allowed for agricultural water permits but not for industrial uses. However, more than 600 temporary use permits have been issued for non-agricultural uses since 1990.

Recently, a State Water Commission (SWC) hydrologist uncovered the 1975 law. A decades-long lapse in awareness and in practice has brought us to today.

Currently, there are 35 temporary use water permits issued in the Little Missouri River basin. Of these, only two have been issued in the area from the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) to the South Dakota border, and neither of these is on the Little Missouri River proper (http://www.swc.nd.gov/pdfs/littlemo_temp_permits.pdf).

Given the importance of our Little Missouri River to our state, and as a course of action in response to the recent discovery of the SWC’s noncompliance with the 1975 law, I have:

1. Been assured by the State Engineer that no conditionalwater permits have ever been, or will be issued establishing industrial water rights from surface water in the Little Missouri River basin.

2. Asked the State Engineer to immediately suspend the issuance of any new temporary nonagricultural use permits in the Little Missouri River basin upstream from the Highway 85 bridge(known as the Long X Bridge), at the east end of the North Unit of TRNP. This area of new permit suspension stretches from the North Unit of TRNP, south along the river, through Medora, past Marmarth, N.D., all the way to the South Dakota border, and includes the entirety of the Maah Daah Hey Trail and both units of TRNP.

3. Initiated the reinstatement of the Little Missouri River Commission. We have searched archives and the last recorded meeting of this commission was held in Dickinson in 2007. Commission membership, by law, includes the Director of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, the State Health Officer, and the Chief Engineer of the State Water Commission, or their designated representatives; and one member from each of the following counties, appointed by their respective county commission: McKenzie, Billings, Slope, Golden Valley, Dunn and Bowman. The county representatives must be resident landowners who live adjacent to the Little Missouri River, with the exception of the Golden Valley County representative. The governor’s office will work with the State Water Commission and the respective county commissions to re-establish an active Little Missouri River Commission.

4. Asked the State Engineer to immediately reviewmodify and make transparent the process and requirements for any future issuance of temporary use permits for non-agricultural uses, and to make public all the available data on the temporary permits that have been issued since 1990. The State Engineer will deliver a preliminary report within 60 days. Also, this report and its findings will be presented to the Little Missouri River Commission and the State Water Commission. No new temporary use permits will be issued upstream of the Long X Bridge until the new system for application and approval is created.

5. Asked the State Engineer to evaluate the future need for additional Little Missouri River stream gauges. Presently, the SWC continuously monitors stream gauge flows in the Little Missouri River at three locations: Marmarth, Medora and the Highway 85 bridge. Many letters expressed concerns about water depletion in the LMR due to the industrial permits. The initial review of the river flows indicates this is a false hypothesis.  In a typical year, there is over 300,000 acre-feet of LMR water flowing past the Long X bridge. The peak year was the big flood year of 2011, when it reached a modern record of 1.1 million acre-feet of flowage. The low year of flowage since electronic recordkeeping began at the SWC in 1990 was 49,000 acre-feet (1992). In 2012, the peak year for industrial use between the TRNP North Unit and the South Dakota border, total reported use was 47 acre-feet, and it accounted for less than one-tenth of 1 percent (0.1%) of the total stream gauge flow.  For comparison, agricultural use that year was 1,024 acre-feet, while the Bully Pulpit golf course at Medora typically draws 155 acre-feet from its conditional use permit.

In addition to the above action steps, I thought you might find the following information useful:

Most temporary use permits are issued for periods of three to six months with a maximum of 12 months. All temporary permits are subject to cancellation by the State Engineer at any time, including for any violations in use, or when necessitated by drought conditions.

Temporary use permits cannot be renewed. A new application is required upon the term ending for the temporary use.

Many of temporary use permits (265 of 600) issued between 1990 and today were to support construction projects, including using water for dust control or as part of road/highway construction.

“Temporary use permits are strictly regulated by the State Engineer. Sample conditions can be found  at http://www.swc.nd.gov/pdfs/temp_permits_sample_conditions.pdf

Temporary use permits provide many benefits, including:

  • Limiting the impact on depletable water sources such as aquifers and artesian springs, a real concern in the area of the Fox Hills aquifer.
  • Avoiding the need to haul water across long distances, thereby reducing truck traffic and dust that impact wildlife, livestock, vegetation and human health. Eliminating temporary use permits would directly and substantially increase truck traffic within the LMR basin.
  • Reducing the risk of human injury from truck-vehicle collisions that may result from increased traffic congestion, as well as reducing the risk to wildlife. Truck vehicle miles traveled in North Dakota increased 88 percent from 2007 to 2015, and traffic crash fatalities increased from 104 in 2008 to 170 in 2012.
  • Reducing costs associated with building and maintaining roads due to increased heavy truck traffic.

If you desire additional technical information, or information on river flow, please contact Garland Erbele, State Engineer for the Office of the State Engineer at (701) 328-4940 or swc@nd.gov.

Our rivers, streams, lakes, aquifers and artesian springs provide a resource that supports our diverse economy, including the tourism/recreation, agriculture and energy sectors.

Thank you for your passion, concern and engagement in the public discourse about our conservation heritage and legacy.

Regards,

Doug Burgum
Governor

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — An Open Letter To Governor Doug Burgum, On The Occasion Of The Greatest Threat Ever To The Little Missouri State Scenic River

Dear Gov. Burgum,

Let me quote from the conservation easement you signed for some ranchland you and your friends own in southwest North Dakota’s Bad Lands six years ago:

“The Protected Property possesses agricultural, scenic, and historic, and cultural values. The Protected Property is located in the heart of the only Ponderosa pine forest in North Dakota, south of Teddy Roosevelt’s historic Maltese Cross Ranch. This area is rich in history and is deep in the North Dakota Badlands. The scenic Little Missouri River runs directly through the Protected Property and is the only state-designated scenic river in North Dakota. (emphasis added)

“The Little Missouri National Grasslands … offer significant open space and scenic values to local residents and the general public. In addition, the integrity of the Little Missouri River corridor is significant to the entire state, region and nation in the context of its historic and cultural role in the Native American history of the Upper Great Plains …” (emphasis added)

“Preservation of the Protected Property as an undeveloped area will provide significant public benefit via the tremendous scenic qualities and visual access the Protected Property possesses.” (emphasis added)

“These Conservation Values are of great importance to the Grantor, Grantee, and the people of the state of North Dakota. In addition, these values are vitally important to the people of the nation due to the significant relationship to the river corridor and the need to preserve the view along the Little Missouri River in this specific area.” (emphasis added)

That was YOU, Gov. Burgum six years ago, writing about YOUR ranch in the southern Bad Lands. A document filed in the Slope County Court House in Amidon, N.D.

Well, Governor, that was when you were just a ranch owner and only concerned about protecting your little piece of the Little Missouri River. Concerned enough to try to put a perpetual conservation easement on that land so it could never be developed. So that there could never, ever, be anything more than a gravel road leading to the river bottom. So that commercial and industrial development, like water depots and truck refueling stations, would be forbidden on that piece of the Little Missouri River. FOREVER.

Again, from your document:

“The purpose of these Covenants is to preserve and protect in perpetuity the Conservation Values of the Protected Property … in accordance with (Section) 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code.”

I don’t know if you were successful, since perpetual easements are illegal in North Dakota. I don’t know if you were seeking, or received, federal tax breaks for putting this easement on your property because Section 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code, which your refer to several more times in your easement document, specifically says, “A contribution shall not be treated as exclusively for conservation purposes unless the conservation purpose is protected in perpetuity.” And easements of this sort in North Dakota are limited to 99 years. Which is certainly not “perpetuity.”

Well, anyway. That was then, when you were responsible and concerned for just your little chunk of the Little Missouri River, and no one doubts that your motives were anything less that sincere about protecting the Little Missouri State Scenic River valley.

But now, Gov. Burgum, you’re governor of the whole state and responsible for protecting the entire Little Missouri River, “the only state-designated scenic river in North Dakota,” as you so ably pointed out in your easement papers.

That State Scenic River designation is part of our state’s laws, in Chapter 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code, which says:

“Channelization, reservoir construction, or diversion other than for agricultural or recreational purposes and the dredging of waters within the confines of the Little Missouri scenic river and all Little Missouri River tributary streams are expressly prohibited. “ (emphasis added)

The only water that can come out of that river is water to be used for “agricultural or recreational purposes.” Because the North Dakota Legislature said, in writing this law in 1975, that the Little Missouri State Scenic River is too valuable to the state to allow industrialization of the river to take place.

At least, that is what it says today. But now there’s a new law in front of you, Governor, awaiting your signature (or your veto?) passed by the 2017 Legislature, which changes all that. For the past 10 years or so, your State Water Commission, of which you, now, as governor, are the chairman of, has been violating that law and issuing permits for industrial use of Little Missouri State Scenic River water. This year, your staff over there at the Water Commission has decided to come clean and ask that those permits be made legal. Mind you, they didn’t cancel the permits when we found out they were issuing them illegally. They just decided to change the law to make them legal. With the help of oil industry lobbyists and friendly Republican legislators. No doubt those oil industry lobbyists are perched outside your office right now, waiting to encourage you to sign the bill into law and give them, legally, million of gallons of Little Missouri State Scenic River water.

And that’s what the bill in front of you, HB1020 passed this week by the 65th North Dakota Legislative Assembly, does. And those legislators are asking you to sign it into law. So that their friends (and more and more, it’s starting to look like your friends, too) in the oil industry can continue to get that water.

And if you and the Legislature make it legal, the oil industry will probably want way more than they’ve been getting so far, from those 600 illegal water permits they were issued by your Water Commission staff over the past 10 years. They won’t have to worry about any penalties for breaking the law any more.

So are you going to sign it, Gov. Burgum? Are you going to legalize the industrialization of the Little Missouri State Scenic River valley? Or are you going to remember what you wrote six years ago about your little piece of the Little Missouri State Scenic River valley:

“The integrity of the Little Missouri River corridor is significant to the entire state, region and nation in the context of its historic and cultural role in the Native American history of the Upper Great Plains …” and an “undeveloped area will provide significant public benefit via the tremendous scenic qualities …”

Water tanker trucks and dry riverbeds don’t contribute much to the “integrity” or “scenic qualities” of the Little Missouri State Scenic River Valley. Are you going to let that happen? Or are you going to accept your responsibility as governor of the WHOLE state, and the WHOLE Little Missouri State Scenic River, and veto the section of HB1020 that opens up the river valley to industrialization by the oil industry? The Little Missouri State Scenic River is counting on you, Gov. Burgum. You decide.

Gov. Burgum, please read, and contemplate a little bit, this poem from my dear friend, Debra Marquart, written before the bust. Debra is a native North Dakotan who, like you, cares deeply about her state, Gov. Burgum. Read this and maybe you’ll give that veto power just a little more consideration.

LAMENT

By Debra Marquart

(c) 2015

north dakota,   I’m worried about you

the company you keep   all these new friends   north dakota

beyond the boom, beyond the extraction  of precious resources

do you think they care what becomes of you

 

north dakota, you used to be the shy one

enchanted secret land only by a few   north dakota

 

when I traveled away and told people I  belonged to you   north dakota

your name rolled awkwardly from their tongues

a mouth full of rocks, the name of a foreign country

 

north dakota   you were the blushing wallflower

the natural beauty, nearly invisible, always on the periphery

north dakota   the least visited state in the union

 

now everyone knows your name   north dakota

the blogs and all the papers are talking about you   even 60 minutes

 

I’m collecting your clippings   north dakota

the pictures of you from space

the flare ups in your northern corner

like an exploding super nova

a massive city where no city exists

a giant red blight upon the land

 

and those puncture wounds   north dakota   take care of yourself

the injection sites   i see them on the maps

eleven thousand active wells    one every two miles

 

all your indicators are up   north dakota

four hundred billion barrels, some estimates say

more oil than we have water to extract

more oil than we have air to burn

 

north dakota   you could run the table right now   you could write your own ticket

so, how can I tell you this?   north dakota, your politicians

 

are co-opted (or cowards or bought-out or honest and thwarted)

they’re lowering the tax rate for oil companies

they’re greasing the wheels that need no greasing

they’re practically giving the water away

they’ve opened you up and said, take everything

 

north dakota   dear sleeping beauty   please, wake up

 

what will become of your sacred places,

what will become of the prairie dog

the wolf, the wild horses, the eagle

the meadowlark, the fox, the elk

the pronghorn antelope, the rare mountain lion

the roads, the air, the topsoil

your people, your people,

what will become of the water?

 

north dakota   who will ever be able to live with you

once this is all over   I’m speaking to you now

as one wildcat girl   to another   be careful    north Dakota

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Musings On Petrichor

Petrichor: The smell in the air before or as rain falls on hot, dry, stony ground (petra = stone; ichor = divine fluid. As defined by one of my favorite authors, Robert Macfarlane, on his Twitter account. Word of the Day March 18, 2017 by Robert Macfarlane

I love this word and I love the smell. My first memory of recognition of this smell was when I was driving one of the dusty, scoria roads near the Logging Camp Ranch in Slope County, North Dakota, with my maternal grandparents, in their blue Ford Galaxy, on a hot August day about 50 years ago. Although she did not use this word, my Grandma Lily explained to me what I was smelling. I would have been about 7 years old. To this day when I drive over the bridge at Deep Creek in that very spot, I have this intense memory.

My family went on these rambles on summer Sundays, ranging as far as we could manage, taking a picnic lunch. We went to the top of Bullion Butte. We went to Camp Crook, S.D.  We went to the Powder River country in southeastern Montana. We went to the top of Pretty Butte. We went exploring the western North Dakota lands where my maternal great-aunts had all homesteaded decades before, mostly just grassy quarter sections with scant evidence of their long-ago lives.

I’m quite proud of the fact that I went to the top of Bullion Butte in 1966, years before my husband, Jim Fuglie, or friends Mike Jacobs and Clay Jenkinson. In fact, I kinda like to lord it over them.

The photos were taken by my father, with his 35 mm camera he purchased in Japan in the years just before this when we were living in Okinawa.

You can see why I call this iconic butte, more mesa than butte, the center of my universe.

And why the word petrichor resonates with me to this day.

The aforementioned British writer Robert Macfarlane has published some wondrous books, including his award-winning Landmarks, travelogues, geographic meanderings, explorations of word meanings and musings on high points he has climbed. Here is a nice summation of one of his books and a splendid picture of him. Penguin also notes his biography as follows:

Robert Macfarlane was born in Nottinghamshire in 1976. He is the author of “Mountains of the Mind,” “The Wild Places,” “The Old Ways and Landmarks.” “Mountains of the Mind” won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Placeswon the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times. He is currently working on an illustrated children’s book about the natural world in collaboration with illustrator Jackie Morris.

Personally, I’m eager to see his forthcoming children’s book. His daily word on Twitter is very educational. This brief New Yorker piece on him is worth the read too:   Pen Pals Provide Linguistic Curios

You can’t go wrong whiling away the hours with one his splendid books. They’ll give you wanderlust of your own. Maybe you’ll make your own personal journey to the top of the magnificent Bullion Butte. You’ll be the better for the journey.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Act Today To Protect The Little Missouri State Scenic River

There are two or three days left in the legislative session. A lot of bad things are going to happen to North Dakota in that short period of time. I’ve been watching every legislative session since 1975, and this one is by far the most irresponsible I’ve seen.

One of the worst things that could happen this week is the industrialization of the Little Missouri State Scenic River. I wrote about this last week. I won’t go back into it here. Instead, I’m asking you to help stop something bad from happening.

Below is an email I sent to Gov. Doug  Burgum this morning. In it, I am asking him to instruct his state engineer to withdraw the amendment to the Little Missouri Scenic River Act that he has requested in House bill 1020. You can read it here. It is on page 8, about halfway down the page. The words “temporary use,” which they are adding to the Act, are code words for Industrial Water Permits. The Water Commission’s own engineers told me that last week.

Please consider emailing Gov. Burgum by going to this link on his web page and ask him to have his state engineer withdraw his request for changes to the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act in HB1020. Please do it today. Tomorrow is probably too late. Thank you for your help.

Here’s the email I sent this morning.

Dear Gov. Burgum,

In 1975, the Legislature acted to protect the Little Missouri State Scenic River (its full and appropriate title) from industrial development by passing the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act, now Section 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code.  Many of my friends and I were involved in that effort to protect the Little Missouri River, as the state faced a request from Tenneco to build a coal gasification plant in western North Dakota, using water from a dam on a tributary of the Little Missouri. The act specifically said “No water for industrial use from the Little Missouri or its tributaries.” That law has withstood the test of time, except that the State Water Commission has been violating it for years by giving out illegal industrial use water permits from the Little Missouri, by their own accounting more than 600 of them, to the oil and gas industry. Now the Water Commission has asked that an amendment to 61-29 be approved to allow them to legally give out industrial water permits. They have done so in an amendment to House Bill 1020, a Water Commission appropriations bill. I am writing to ask you to instruct the State Engineer to ask the Legislature to remove that amendment from HB 1020 today. You and I both know that the Little Missouri is too valuable to be used as an industrial water source. That’s why it has been named the state’s only State Scenic River, and is the only river protected from development by state law. Please act today to preserve that law, and our precious Little Missouri State Scenic River.

MICHAEL BOGERT: Photo Gallery — Wildlife Wonderland

You don’t have to go to western North Dakota to catch a good glimpse of wildlife. Just ask Grand Forks photographer Michael Bogert, who never seems to come up empty when searching his favorite Red River Valley haunts — including Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge — for watchable wildlife.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Medora On My Mind

I took the above picture in 2006 of Sentinel Butte, N.D. Its population today is 61 compared to 229 in the early 1950s, when our family lived there for several months.

The town is a few miles west of Medora, which in those days was not yet much of a tourist attraction. Neither was Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which had been authorized in 1947 by President Truman.

Dad had moved the family to Sentinel Butte to partner in a water well drilling business, but it didn’t work out. I threw a major fit in the spring when told we were returning to our Wellsburg, N.D., farm.

Later in the mid-1960s I was employed for a time by the State Highway Department’s tourism bureau, with my duties including promotion of western North Dakota.

The late Bismarck entrepreneur (and multimillionaire) Harold Schafer was busy putting Medora on the vacation destination map. His foundation has kept it there ever since.

The Badlands still resonate with me. It’s 500-plus miles and an eight-hour drive each way from Bloomington, Minn., but it may be time to schedule a return visit.

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — Badlands Weekend

Grand Forks photographer Russ Hons and his wife, Paulette, took a trip to Medora, N.D., over the weekend. While there, they spent much of the time checking out the wildlife and the scenery in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  According to Russ, “I love this place!” What’s not to love? (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)