Protecting an historic N.D. site

Oil wells next door to Theodore Roosevelt’s historic Badlands ranch?

XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobile Corp., has staked out an area for as many as four oil wells near the cabin at the Elkhorn Ranch, with one stake about 100 feet from a lot where people park before hiking to the spot where the Roosevelt cabin was build more than 100 years ago. A spokesman for the company says it is working with federal officials on an alternative location, and that “reports that we are drilling or intending to drill on a site adjacent to the Elkhorn Ranch were premature.”

That’s certainly good news, if true. It would be difficult to imagine massive oil wells sitting within sight of the historic property, where Roosevelt spent time ranching in 1883 and later years. He credits his time in the Badlands with deepening his love of nature and his conservation work.

The Badlands themselves are a state and national treasure, and should be spared from becoming home to large oil wells and the accompanying traffic and disruptions. But the Elkhorn Ranch should be even more protected. We recognize the importance of the ongoing oil boom to the future of the state’s economy, but some locations simply must remain off-limits. The Elkhorn Ranch is one of those locations. Let’s hope everyone involved in approving a potential permit for oil exploration keeps that in mind. Better yet, let’s hope the company in question recognizes the location is more valuable to the state’s legacy than it is to the state’s economy or the company’s bottom line.