“I just object to having a bunch more people out there”
The headline is from a Medora-area resident quoted in this article about local push back against a planned property development, including housing and restaurants, to be built to help serve soaring demand in western North Dakota caused by the oil boom.
I think the statement, and the attitude it represents, strikes to the heart of the friction caused by the oil boom. It’s not the crime, which isn’t nearly as bad as hysterical media reports have made it out to be. It’s not the traffic or the roads which, while frustrating, are already being addressed by the state (though, admittedly, more solutions are needed).
The oil boom is not the problem. We can rise to the challenges the oil boom represents. We can make roads bigger. The stores and the hosing will come to meet demand. We can hire more cops to police a bigger population. The problem is that a lot of people in western North Dakota don’t want to see their communities grow.
Here’s another example from the Associated Press. “We’re making the best of it,” says Kerry Finsass about the resurrection of Dore a western ND “ghost town” where she lives, “but it doesn’t mean we like it.”
It’s hard not to be sympathetic. The sort of person who lives in a small community in western North Dakota is not the sort of person who likes the “hustle and bustle” of life. They like a quieter, slower pace of life. So when an oil boom, and all the commerce and social activity that goes along with it, finds them they resent it. Especially if they don’t own any mineral rights.
But this attitude has been very hurtful. It is that attitude that has led western communities to ban man camps, the temporary housing built by the oil industry for workers. It is that attitude that has led to bans and restrictions on the use of campers for housing. Now that attitude is trying to kill off actual property development aimed at providing more permanent housing.
There’s a point at which legitimate concern about protecting a community turns into parochial disdain for “outsiders.”
But it can’t be that way. We can’t deny mineral rights owners their opportunity to profit from their property, we can’t turn away people who are coming to our state to live and work and prosper and we can’t throw a monkey wrench into the progress and economic growth brought by the oil boom because some want their communities to remain the small (and, frankly, dying) communities they were before.Tags: bakken, medora, North Dakota News, oil