Further complicating oversight of culturally or environmentally sensitive areas is that a tract of land in North Dakota can have separate owners, above and below ground. Surface owners are typically trumped by mineral owners who are allowed to access the land for exploration under state law.
"Mineral owners in this state can develop their minerals," said Goehring, of the Industrial Commission. "We just have to address concerns and minimize those impacts."
Goehring said some examples include requiring companies to build roads or place wells in the least intrusive areas possible, or even requiring companies to paint tanks and other equipment so that it blends with the landscape.
Stenehjem said he often vacations in western North Dakota and has done so as late as last weekend. He already has visited many of the identified sites and intends to look at more of them in the coming weeks.
Of particular concern, he said, is the issue of natural gas flaring in western North Dakota, where about 30 percent of the state's gas production is being burned off or "flared" because development of the pipelines and processing facilities needed to handle it has not kept pace with production.
"We've done a lot but we need to do more," Stenehjem said.
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