BISMARCK (AP) - North Dakota regulators on Tuesday approved a plan that will allow a company to drill for oil near Theodore Roosevelt National Park after resubmitting an application that moves its operation away from the historic Elkhorn Ranch where Theodore Roosevelt built a cabin in the early 1880s.
ExxonMobile Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. had staked a well within 300 feet of the ranch. XTO withdrew that proposal in March after public opposition and submitted a new application.
The Bismarck Tribune reports the North Dakota Industrial Commission met Tuesday and approved a permit for that alternative. It moves drilling more than 2 miles northwest to an existing well site that still allows the company access to all of its new oil leases.
State officials said the new operation will be out of sight and also protect the historic site.
Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, said the current well site would need to be expanded from about 5 acres to about 10-15 acres to accommodate the drilling.
"They have really drafted a fantastic win-win-win-win out of this thing," Helms said.
After the three-member commission voted, Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple praised the plan.
"I believe this is a good solution to that problem," he said.
The site, on Forest Service land in the Little Missouri National Grasslands, appears to be out of sight of the park and also protects the access road leading to the Elkhorn Ranch and campground associated with the Maah Daah Hey Trail, said park superintendent Valerie Naylor.
"As it was (originally) staked out, I think it would have been the most intrusive oil well (ever impacting the park)," Naylor said.
Roosevelt raised cattle at the Elkhorn ranch in the mid-1880s before returning to his native New York and eventually becoming the nation's 26th president. The 218-acre site was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.
Roosevelt credited his time at the ranch with deepening the love and respect he had for nature that helped make him an early champion of conservationism. He also said in his writings that he would not have become president were it not for his time in the Badlands.