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Published August 15, 2013, 09:06 AM

Group seeks to protect Killdeer Mountains from oil

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — An alliance working to protect the environment and history of the Killdeer Mountains in western North Dakota's oil patch wants state regulators to reconsider how oil is being tapped there.

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — An alliance working to protect the environment and history of the Killdeer Mountains in western North Dakota's oil patch wants state regulators to reconsider how oil is being tapped there.

The Killdeer Mountain Alliance has asked members of the state Industrial Commission to include the Killdeer Mountains on planned tours of culturally important sites, the Minot Daily News reported. The group also wants the commission to delay any further oil drilling on public land on the west side of the mountains until considering its alternative drilling plan.

That plan would access the same oil from a different location, which would require three miles of horizontal drilling but would be safer and cause less archaeological damage, according to the group that includes landowners, former residents, historians, Native Americans, archeologists, wildlife biologists, hunters and others.

"I would like to specifically show them, on the ground, the alternative we are suggesting and how that would help," said landowner Rob Sand, coordinator of the alliance. "It's public land that has been enjoyed for ages by hunters, by lease holders, by cattle, by just sightseers. Native Americans have taken quite an interest in this whole issue because they have held this as a sacred ground."

Industrial Commission members have not been able to coordinate their schedules for a joint tour of culturally sensitive sites but will be touring individually. They also are open to looking at possible new approaches to drilling, said Jeff Zent, spokesman for Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who sits on the Industrial Commission with Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

State Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms also is expected to be involved in the tours but the locations to be included have yet to be determined, said department spokeswoman Alison Ritter.

The Industrial Commission last January approved drilling for eight new wells in the Killdeer Mountains area, and later rejected an appeal to reconsider. Sand said two wells have been drilled so far. The drilling has sparked protests from ranchers and American Indians concerned about sacred or historic sites, including the site of an historic 1864 battle between Army soldiers and Indians.

The alliance is not opposed to oil development but wants it conducted in an environmentally friendly manner, Sand said.

"Most people in this state look at the Killdeer Mountains, I believe, as a scenic place that they want to enjoy as unspoiled as possible," he said.

Hess Corp., which is doing the drilling, has said it is committed to safeguarding the environment.

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