Western North Dakota is changing at an overwhelming pace, forcing our state's outdoorsmen to grudgingly adjust. Some might, some won't. Change is not always all good.
From buttes and breaks dotted with junipers, from sprawling sagebrush flats bordered by coveted cropland to the open and rolling hills of the National Grasslands, the "west" has been both a wonder and a shining jewel for many North Dakotans. It is our identity, our source of pride, a place to marvel about and a part of our state that has always provided a pleasant escape from computer screens and paved roads.
Today the rugged land brought to national attention by the likes of the dashing Marquis De Mores and the colorful and uniquely descriptive writings of Theodore Roosevelt, is undergoing a rapid transition that is clashing head-on with our sportsmen and our wildlife. Sportsmen who used to brag about making a trip to western North Dakota, be it among the rugged buttes or rolling plains dotted with countless potholes, invoked jealousy among those so informed.
Kim Fundingsland is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News.
Mention a trip to western North Dakota today and you are just as likely to hear the reply "you must be kidding" or "don't you know what's happening out there?" Wishing a western North Dakota hunter "good luck" now refers to staying safe on the roadways rather than to the success of outing.
For many sportsmen who have enjoyed our state's unmatched quality of hunts in the west, the age of reckoning appears to be here. The number of people that have migrated into western North Dakota is rising too rapidly to track with accuracy. Hard-to-believe population predictions aside, state sportsmen who have relished their time in the western part of our state for reasons of their own choosing, whether it be for birds or big game or just to get away, readily ascertain that words like "remote" and "pristine" no longer have the same meaning in much of western North Dakota that they had as little as a few seasons ago.
Is it a land lost? Not entirely. But it is a land changed by one of the biggest energy booms the United States has ever experienced. For those residents who have watched it happen, it is difficult to imagine it can ever return to the attraction coveted primarily because of unblemished acres that bond us to our heritage.
Teddy Roosevelt had it right a number of years ago when he recognized the importance of setting aside certain lands for the preservation of certain wildlife and habitat. Today the two units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park border the developing oil boom, reminding us that we have an obligation to our past and to our future.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.