My father spent 37 years serving the people of North Dakota while employed by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Back then, the department made the sometimes difficult but right decisions to protect the public interest and the rights we citizens have to our resources.
What is happening at the Game and Fish Department? In past times, when biologists dedicated themselves to protecting important public resources, their management would stand behind them. Are those days gone?
The suppression of an in-depth report detailing impacts of oil development on wildlife does a disservice to the hard-earned creditability the Game and Fish Department has won over many years. Oil development is an important industry for our state. But that doesn't make our outdoor heritage inconsequential.
The NDGF report details things that have worked in other states to mitigate the impacts of oil development on our natural resources.
I have frequent contact with ranchers who have informed me that their cattle are underweight and getting sick from all the dust (perhaps fly-ash) and chaos caused by heavy oil traffic. That made me wonder about wildlife impacts. On Feb. 11, I wrote a letter to the department requesting any reports showing what is happening to our wildlife in the oil patch. It took more than four weeks before I heard from the department and another week before I received the study, only after a report in the Tribune and online.
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Professional biologists have listed a host of serious concerns about mule deer, elk, antelope, bighorns and many other species.
Both the Game and Fish Department leadership and our governor's office, having received the report in June 2010, should have been addressing these concerns long ago instead of postponing until the fall of 2011. Past Game and Fish Department officials would never have taken a "too little, too late" politically comfortable position when it came to public resources.
The ranchers in the West trying to survive this oil boom and sportsmen across the state have one important realization to make: Our state government is broken.