The Board of University and State School Lands passed a resolution this morning in Bismarck to withdraw more than 5,300 acres of environmentally sensitive lands in western North Dakota from mineral development, including parcels near Bullion Butte and the Kendley Plateau.
The announcement comes as good news to conservation interests, who had worked to have the lands withdrawn from consideration in an auction of mineral leases set for Tuesday. According to a story by Patrick Springer of Forum Communications, the board earlier had voted to withhold 1,683.6 acres from Tuesday’s auction after requests from the state Game and Fish Department and the North Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society.
Today’s action withdraws the full acreage Game and Fish and The Wildlife Society had requested. According to a source attending the meeting, today’s action is temporary, and mineral leases on the acreage could go back up for sale as early as May.
In the Forum Communications story, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said all of the acres included on the Game and Fish Department list should go through a review process. The land board today said it will develop a formal written process for assessing wildlife and other values on state school lands being considered for mineral lease sales.
One conservationist earlier this week might have summed up the feeling best in a letter written to to state officials leading up to today’s meeting:
“At some point all of us realize that everything in life doesn’t revolve around money. We cannot put a price on our natural environment and its inhabitants. … We need to preserve all the tracts outlined by NDGF, not just the 1,700 acres. We need to protect the entire block. The possible revenue loss from these acres is inconsequential when viewed in the total picture.”