Despite its relatively modest sample size, the recent survey by the Dickinson Press on local attitudes towards the oil boom is still instructive: two-thirds of western North Dakotans HATE it.
Perhaps that states the obvious, and yet the so-called "leaders" of our state either don't get it, or they are deliberately ignoring the fact that residents of western North Dakota are fed up with "man camps," unsafe communities and traffic, outrageous rental rates, and unsightly impacts to the very land which supports every aspect of life in western Dakota. While they express concern for the overloaded physical infrastructure in the area, they pay no heed to the equally overwhelmed spiritual and emotional "infrastructure" of the longtime inhabitants of western North Dakota.
Did any of the greedy oil companies or state "leaders" bother to ask if we WANTED to live in an "oil patch" no matter the impact on our way of life?
While greed may be a virtue in some other universe, it is not in ours, and North Dakotans in particular ought to know better.
Most of us longtime Dakotans kind of liked what we had before this extreme "boom," namely the blue sky, good roads with light traffic, an agriculturally driven economy along with modest oil activity, relative safety from the afflictions of the rest of America, and the reasonable expectation that our rural, western innocence was a good thing. Because we are imbued with a good measure of common sense and general absence of greed, we survived the recent economic distress of the rest of America relatively unscathed- yet we are now creating a monster oil "bubble" which will inevitably bust, leaving we stoic "locals" with a very real mess to clean up- again (remember the last boom?).
Good-hearted as western North Dakotans and eastern Montanans tend to be, it was never our job to rescue the rest of America from its greedy excesses by employing America's unemployed, nor is it up to us to supply America with oil. Yes, we do have a responsibility to ameliorate some of both, but not at the cost of annihilation of the people and land.
Common sense would suggest that we keep some of our valuable oil where Mother Nature has kept it for millions of years: in the Bakken, Three Forks and other oil-bearing formations just in case America and North Dakota need oil in 50, 100 or 500 years.
Why the mad rush to extract all of the oil in a few years?
Visionary thinking would also suggest that we keep some of the oil-related jobs we are presently giving to non-residents for future generations of North Dakotans and Montanans.
While it can be said that a "boom" is by definition an explosion of greed, moderation is clearly the better path by any logical measurement- and far less destructive to the land and inhabitants of western North Dakota and eastern Montana. Prudence would also suggest that we start limiting the cause (wild oil boom) of our overwhelmed landscape and communities rather than just treating the symptoms (deteriorating infrastructure and western, rural way of life). We should be able to do vastly better than the current mess. And, imagine how refreshing it would be if the oil companies would for once exercise some self-restraint and responsibility to the land and people of western North Dakota and eastern Montana. Imagine that, and that the so-called "leaders" of this state finally realize that the majority of western North Dakotans have had it with this extreme "oil boom" and its disastrous consequences...if not, we can all vote in the next election.
John A. Heiser