Environmentalists File Lawsuit To Block Development Of Mineral Rights On National Park Land

Once upon a time environmentalists used to try and halt progress and development by doing silly things like chaining themselves to equipment. These days they’ve become much more sophisticated in their efforts to gum up the works. Now they’re figuratively chaining themselves to things by way of endless litigation and political obstructionism.

The Keystone XL pipeline, a project which has been delayed by politics longer than it took to build the transcontinental railroad, is one example. Another example is the push by property owners to build a gravel pit within site of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.

The National Park Service – which owns about 4,400 acres of land surrounding Teddy Roosevelt’s historic Elkhorn Ranch – purchased land from the Eberts family in 2007, but the feds didn’t purchase the mineral rights. The owners of those rights offered to sell to the feds for $2.5 million, but the feds declined to buy. So now the mineral rights owners want to exercise their property rights and build a gravel pit.

The feds were none too pleased, but signed off on development back in January because property rights. Only, here come the environmentalists.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center – the same fools who beclowned themselves last week by claiming some 30 percent of oil wells in the state weren’t in compliance with their gas capture plans (spoiler alert: they got it wrong) – has filed a lawsuit against the federal government demanding more regulatory scrutiny.

“The Forest Service must go back and conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement to consider reasonable alternatives to permitting a gravel pit this close to Theodore Roosevelt National Park,” Mindi Schmitz, the ELPC’s government relations specialist in Jamestown, said in a statement. “As a native North Dakotan, I hope the Forest Service pursues alternatives that would protect the beauty and quiet of this special place that we care deeply about.”

The Forest Service finalized its review of the area and approved the gravel pit in January. The NPCA believes, however, that the Forest Service didn’t consider its ability to preserve the integrity of the land, which is part of the Medora Ranger District.

Oh who are we kidding. Does anyone think the ELPC is ever going to be satisfied with any review which concludes that the owners of these mineral rights can go ahead and develop? The goal here isn’t regulatory due diligence. The goal is obstruction.

But that’s not how property rights work. The federal government does not own the mineral rights on this land. In fact, they specifically declined to purchase those rights.

As it stands now the feds can either purchase those mineral rights from the property owners at a mutually acceptable price, or allow the property owners to go ahead with development. Either way, I’m not sure why some random environmental group should have any standing in the matter.

Unless, of course, the environmentalists want to use some of the millions upon millions they spend on activism every year to purchase these mineral rights themselves to protect them. Or does that make too much sense?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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