BISMARCK – Gov. Doug Burgum, members of his cabinet, District 31 legislators and Morton County officials met with local farmers and ranchers Wednesday in an effort to better understand their perspective and concerns about the impacts of the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
More than 50 farmers, ranchers and other rural residents shared their experiences of people trespassing on their land and farmyards, machinery vandalized, hay bales stolen, livestock missing or killed, and roads and access to fields blocked by protesters. Parents also talked about the mental strain placed on them and their children from schools being locked down for extended periods of time because of protest activity.
One man described almost being run off the road by protesters. Another said, “Everyone in this room has been terrorized.” Yet another described living between the protest camps and law enforcement barricades on State Highway 1806 as “a nightmare.”
North Dakota Stockmen’s Association Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson and her husband, Chad, hosted the gathering at their ranch near St. Anthony.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to share with Gov. Burgum our concerns about the effects on our farmers, ranchers and communities,” Julie Ellingson said. “Meetings like this create a broader understanding of the situation and will hopefully contribute to a timely resolution so life can return to normal for this community and the state of North Dakota.”
In addition to the fear and disruption in their own daily lives, those in attendance also lamented that the protests have cost state and local taxpayers more than $22 million and have strained relations with their neighbors to the south on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Of the more than 550 people arrested so far in connection with the protests, nearly 95 percent are from outside North Dakota, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.
Gov. Burgum thanked the farmers and ranchers for their honesty, patience and restraint. The state and its congressional delegation continue to seek federal help to vacate and clean up the main protest camp on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land before the likely spring flood arrives, he said.
Burgum said every North Dakota family has a right to feel safe in their own home and be free from intimidation, and maintaining the rule of law remains a priority.
“We look forward to getting through this thing, and we’re going to get through it with your help,” he told the farmers and ranchers.