My hometown area in Wisconsin is moving to North Dakota. On the train. And I don't mean Amtrak.
It's not people who are moving out here. It's Wisconsin itself. The land. Or more precisely, the sand. By the trainload, out to the oilfield.
Turns out, West Central Wisconsin is one big sandbox, just right for fracking. Who knew?
Around Tomah, and other cities, they are digging into the ground and leveling hills, bluffs and ridges. Reminds one of the humorous billboards of Lloyd Omdahl when he was lieutenant governor.
Placed near our borders for those driving into the state, one of the giant posters proclaimed: "North Dakota. Mountain removal project completed."
Portions of Wisconsin may soon have posters such as: "Hill, Bluff and Ridge removal project completed" or "Scenery removal project completed."
If the price is right, who knows, the whole city of 10,000 could go. And maybe even the golf course, or at least the sand traps.
Of course I exaggerate (I hope). But small towns and individual landowners around Tomah have had some tough decisions. And once people start selling, the landscape of those who don't sell is changed, gone even. And the air is filled with silica.
The small town of Tunnel City, hometown of a brother-in-law, is right in the middle of major digging. Perhaps the railroad tunnel for which the town is named could go, if the hill through which the tunnel runs is removed.
Such a deal. A lot of scenery removal, or at least scenery disturbance, to extract oil from deep below North Dakota. And one-third of the natural gas brought to the surface by the fracking is just flared off.
Shouldn't this whole thing have been thought through more before all the earth disturbance here and in Wisconsin? Couldn't we have, as they have in Europe, done all our fracking with a no flare policy, no wasted natural resource?
Flaring is an obvious sign lighting up our night, a sign of our lack of planning, our short-sightedness. At least Statoil of Norway will follow the no-flare policy in their wells in the Baaken.
In conclusion, a literary irony, a very sad literary irony. Wisconsin sand is not going just to North Dakota. It's going to other states, including Pennsylvania.
And some sand is mined in Sauk County, or as it is referred to in the writing of naturalist Aldo Leopold, Sand County.
So we have sand from the home area of the author of "Sand County Almanac" being sent to the home area of another naturalist, Rachel Carson, author of "Silent Spring," for natural gas fracking in the Quaker State.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)