Jay Clemens

Western North Dakota landowner Jay Clemens stands on a Badlands overlook with a backdrop of the winding Little Missouri State Scenic River and Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch. The site is located about 35 miles north of Medora.

Jay Clemens owns land near Theodore Roosevelt National Park and wants to do what he can to preserve the beauty of the area. He’s limited, however, because he doesn’t own the mineral rights. That means oil companies can drill on his land.

As reporter Amy Dalrymple explained in a Sunday story, Clemens has been working with the oil industry to limit its footprint on his property. It’s not possible to eliminate all signs of development, but he has been making strides.

A Mandan native, Clemens now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. He purchased two properties, one across from the Elkhorn Ranch unit where Teddy Roosevelt lived. His goal is to keep the land as much like it was when Roosevelt roamed the area as possible. He serves on the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation and has been active in conservation activities. One of the properties he purchased was the Buckhorn Ranch, directly across from the area Roosevelt chose for his ranch in the 1880s. Clemens wanted his land included in the Theodore Roosevelt Elkhorn Ranchlands Historic District.

To reduce the impact on his land Clemens has done a number of things with the oil industry. It’s an effort to protect the views from the Elkhorn Ranch.

He’s weighing a request for a pipeline to move saltwater, a waste byproduct of oil production. While he doesn’t like to disturb his land, he also wants to reduce truck traffic. It becomes a tradeoff, selecting the less intrusive option. At the same time he rejected a request to access water from the Little Missouri River because he’s unsure of the impact of industrial uses on the river.

NP Resources, an oil company operating in the area, is trying to minimize impact in the sensitive Badlands areas. They have been drilling multiple wells from a single location, using existing well sites when possible and connecting to pipelines right away so natural gas is flared only in emergencies. They don’t use above-ground pump jacks that bob up and down, instead using submersible pumps with equipment that is below ground. At a well site near Clemens' property, NP Resources drilled a saltwater disposal well on the same pad as oil wells so wastewater can be injected there rather than piped or trucked elsewhere. NP Resources follows federal standards when designing well sites whether working on federal land or not.

Landowners working with oil companies can reduce the impact on the land, but they don’t eliminate the impact. Some companies are easier to work with than others. Clemens and NP Resources are examples of working together in the oil patch. It can only be helpful in the long run.

The Badlands Advisory Group released recommendations in May after an assessment of oil development in the Badlands. The group found most people favor oil development, but also want more attention paid to protecting surface resources, another indication that cooperation is wanted in the oil patch. Among the group’s recommendations are asking the North Dakota Industrial Commission to do larger landscape planning, starting a wildlife habitat improvement program and promoting a pilot project for oil companies to test some of the group's recommendations. The group will meet next month to discuss its next steps.

With the pace in the Badlands no longer as frantic, this is a good time to look at the Badlands Advisory Group’s recommendations and explore ways for landowners and the oil industry to find a common ground. We need to find ways to preserve the Badlands when possible

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