ND minerals may be included in oil lease sale

BISMARCK (AP) — A parcel of land bordering Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota may be included in a federal oil and gas lease sale.

Conservationists are urging the Bureau of Land Management not to include the 120-acre parcel in the sale, and they’re raising concerns about oil development on the park’s boundary, the Bismarck Tribune reported .

Park Superintendent Wendy Ross wrote in comments to the federal agency that the National Park Service is also concerned about oil activity diminishing visitor experience and affecting wildlife habitat. The park is home to bison and elk, and is known for the Maltese Cross Cabin, where President Theodore Roosevelt once lived.

“This small parcel is not going to make or break the lease sale, but it could make or break the park as it relates to the visitor experience,” added Valerie Naylor, former superintendent of the park and a consultant for the National Parks Conservation Association.

The bureau received an “expression of interest” to lease the federal minerals, said Al Nash, a spokesman for the bureau’s Montana/Dakotas office. The agency didn’t say who expressed the interest.

Nash said agency officials are taking public input on whether to include the land in a March sale. An environmental assessment will be available for public review beginning Sept. 30.

“Here the park is named for a guy that’s known for his conservation and protection of public land, creation of public land,” said Jan Swenson, executive director of the Badlands Conservation Alliance. “And we’re making no room for concession to that fact.”

The North Dakota Department of Trust Lands manages the surface of the parcel, and the state Common Schools Trust Fund owns minerals in an area adjacent to the federal minerals, said North Dakota Land Commissioner Lance Gaebe. Any operator who wants to develop the oil and gas minerals using the trust land surface would need an easement from the Board of University and School Lands.