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Letter to the editor: State legislators need to respond to needs in Bakken

I’m a 30-year-old, third generation rancher outside of Grassy Butte, N.D. I’m writing for the people of western North Dakota in regard to the needs we face and the deaf ears of our “leaders” those needs continue to follow on.

First off, thank you to the elected Democrats for listening and understanding. Coming from a young guy with a lot of pride and voted Republican 97 percent of the time, thank you. I never knew why to vote which way in the past, but I’ve learned now.

Western North Dakota is in desperate need of help. Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, might disagree with the Democrats who have called for a special session to address our “rainy day” needs, so I’ll be the one to rain on his parade.

It once took me 7 1/2 hours to get my son from school in Watford City, N.D., and drive back to my ranch. That’s 32 miles and with a little ice and many vehicles and trucks hauling crude, it was a mess. Not one sand truck or one officer was there to help relieve conditions or traffic. Where’s the help?

I just read about Minnesota public officials and their fire departments “losing sleep at night” not feeling prepared or trained to respond to potential accidents involving crude being transported through their state. I volunteer for Grassy Butte’s fire department, and we have the same fears, but likely much higher. With more than 20 volunteers in the area, we share suits and air tanks to tackle anything, but we are not prepared for oil-related fires and explosions. I volunteer to help, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to. God forbid a tanker ever meets with a local school bus. How do we respond without the tools to do the job? Where’s the help?

We don’t have the basic infrastructure to live the quality, rural life we want in western North Dakota. We’ve been waiting for water taps from Southwest Water Authority for my family and cattle. My fiancee recently quit taking online classes because our Internet connection contends with overloaded cellphone towers. There is one blade that operates from the Little Missouri to the south McKenzie County line. I see him maybe once every two months, and we often fend for ourselves by meeting the school bus or meeting our basic needs while my tax money piles up in Bismarck. Where’s the help?

State leaders have sent us into a gunfight with a butter knife. I’m a rancher. I face the harsh realities of conditions every day preparing my cattle for what’s to come. It’s your job to listen to the people and respond. You haven’t prepared us, but you need to respond now.