JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The Bridge Stays

Well, Wylie Bice gets to keep his bridge. And he won’t be going to the pokey. If you’ve got enough money out there in the oil patch, you can get away with pretty much anything.

If you’ve been following this story, you know that Bice is the guy who put a big concrete bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River on federal land without federal permission. Click here to get more background. The land is a 76-acre parcel owned by the Bureau of Land Management on the west bank of the Little Missouri in Dunn County, northwest of Killdeer, N.D. It’s completely surrounded by private land, so there’s no way to get to it, except by canoe, on the river, when there’s enough water to get that far down the river by canoe, which isn’t often.

Wylie Bice’s bridge. It’ll be there for a long, long time.
Wylie Bice’s bridge. It’ll be there for a long, long time.

Bice owns land on both sides of the river. He needed a bridge to connect the two parts of his ranch. He arrogantly put the bridge in a spot where it lands on the 76-acre parcel of federal land on the west side, instead of a couple hundred yards up or down the river, where it would have been on his own land. I guess he thought that no one would find out about it, since there’s no way to get to it without trespassing — crossing his private land — which would be illegal.

But someone did.

Someone spotted it on Google Earth and reported it to the BLM a couple of years ago. The BLM did some checking, found out that, sure enough, Bice had put a bridge on its land — our land, actually, public land we own—and the BLM staff set about trying to figure out what to do about it.

Following federal rules and regulations, the BLM conducted an environmental assessment, analyzed it, discussed all kinds of alternatives, which included making him tear it down, and this week released a “Record of Decision.”

Wylie Bice’s illegal water depot. It’ll be gone pretty soon.
Wylie Bice’s illegal water depot. It’ll be gone pretty soon.

The decision was Bice gets to keep the bridge, but he has to reclaim two pieces of land, one piece on which he planted alfalfa for hay for his cows and one that includes a big old water pit from which he was selling fracking water to the oil companies. And he has to pay a fine, the amount of which has yet to be determined. We should know that in a couple of days.

I’m going to write more about this later. One last story, I hope, but for now, I thought you might like to know the outcome of this deal. I’ll share the body of the e-mail I got Thursday from Loren Wickstrom, the BLM’s North Dakota manager, the guy who’s had to deal with all this for the past two years. At the end is a link to the BLM website. At the bottom left-hand corner of the web page, you’ll find links to the relevant documents. A lot of you submitted comments on this as part of the EA process. You’ll find your comments and the BLM’s response to them beginning on page 37 of the EA. Have fun reading the BLM’s responses. Here’s Loren’s e-mail:


I hope this email finds you well.  

 After careful consideration I have signed the Finding of No Significant Impact and Decision Record for the Environmental Assessment for the Little Missouri River Bridge and Other Unauthorized Developments (DOI-BLM-MT-CO30-2018-0083).  The decision is to issue the ROW grant to Wylie Bice for the existing bridge and access road and direct him to remove and reclaim the existing water settlement pond and portions of two alfalfa fields located on public land.  

 The docs are available online through BLM’s ePlanning website at https://go.usa.gov/xQF89 .  

 Letters will go out in tomorrow’s mail to interested parties that provided comments.  As per your request I am letting you know in advance of receiving your hard copy letter.  



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