Mike Kopp: Rumors About Western North Dakota Devastation Are Exaggerated


Some say oil activity in western North Dakota, the Bakken, has ruined the scenic Badlands and Grasslands of North Dakota. Claims of devastation and destruction are not true. I believe a good heart will see the beauty, and there is plenty of beauty for a good heart to see.

I’ve lived and worked in Mountrail and McKenzie counties for over a decade. For more than 30 years I’ve hiked, backpacked, camped, canoed and ridden horses through the Bakken region of North Dakota; its beauty is stunning. Oil activity in the Badlands and Grasslands touches less than one-percent of the landscape. That means places such as Magpie Campground, the Long X Trail, the Ice Caves, and Devils Pass are all there for a good heart to see and enjoy.

Not only is the scenery still preserved for enjoyment, but so are the cultures and the people. Whether it’s a Ukrainian café north of Belfield, a trail ride near Killdeer or a Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara powwow at New Town, the beautiful Bakken is to be enjoyed.

Traffic is no heavier than Fargo or Grand Forks’ busy routes, and yes there is construction underway, but this is summer; what summer doesn’t have road construction in North Dakota? The ND DOT does a fantastic job of building roads every year with minimal interruption to travelers, and this year, the year of the bypass, is no exception. New Town is snarled, but that’s only one four-block area in millions of square miles. I’m all over the region from Tioga to Amidon and traffic isn’t as bad as the rumors I’ve heard.

Last spring, frustrated by the untrue accounts of the negative impact of the oil industry in the Bakken, a fellow photographer and I set out to record the beautiful Bakken in photos and stories. Through social media, our work is followed by hundreds of people in the U.S, Canada and Europe who agree with us. I encourage anyone who is tempted to believe oil activity is the ruination of western North Dakota to see for themselves. Western North Dakota is the beautiful Bakken.