“I Walked All That Way To see That?

Just up the township road from the cabin there is an “unimproved road”  or what I in my Wisconsin Farm ways would call a farm road that heads north and east into the Little Missouri National Grasslands.  The road according to Lynn, our host, can only be used by the adjacent landowners to check on cattle grazing, to.check fences and gates, and to check water lines. In my naiveity (?) I assumed water lines meant cattle watering tanks.
Imagine my surprise after several miles of walking we reach a ridge that has tantilized us with the prospect of a spectacular view and we find an oil well; pump, platform, and storage tanks, with a bright shiny red crushed rock road curling up and around the hills to it.
Some facts I have gleaned from various local sources.
1. The red rock used on the oil roads (and township roads) is called scoria. It is formed when the coal seams in the ground burn and heat up the upper layers of the earth. The red color comes from the oxidation process.
2. In 1979 103 oil wells were drilled in McKenzie County and subsequntly abandoned after the first USA oil crisis.
3. In the last 18 months three times (approximately, acording to reliable sources, although not statistically confirmed) the 1979 number of wells have been drilled in the county and there are more being drilled daily.
4. The 1979 wells were vertical wells. The current wells are horizontally drilled wells. The current wells employ a process called fracking to extract the oil under the adjacent lands- including the National Grasslands.
5. Fracking is a process that uses water pressure and fine sand to force relatively small amounts of oil from the shale. I have heard fracking uses 11,000 gallons of water per pump.  Guess, oh fine people of western Wisconsin where the fine sand comes from? By the semi load? There is an active mine in Bay City, another in Maiden Rock, another in the works in Pepin County, and another one proposed near Red Wing.
6. The water lines ranchers check are the lines that provide the oil wells, not the cattle. 
7. Ownimg the mineral rights to a secton of land is key to its value
8. The National Grasslands has leased (LEASED!) the mineral rights to private companies, oil companies presntly fracking an unstable, eroding, and irreplaceable landscape.
Upon reaching that final alluring ridge I could only comment “Fuck. We walked all that way to see that.”


One thought on ““I Walked All That Way To see That?

  1. Fascinating research. Situation reminds of me Cowboys and Aliens, that movie that came out with Harrison Ford. The alien race mines gold.

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