Open Letter to Obama: The Ages Have Been at Work

06/06/2014 04:39 pm ET | Updated Aug 06, 2014

Dear Mr. President:

This past November I sent you an invitation to visit North Dakota, and it seems you have taken up the offer. As I understand it, you will be visiting the Standing Rock Reservation on June 13. I hope you will consider visiting the Fort Berthold Reservation, what I would call Ground Zero of the Bakken oil boom.

And then, Mr. President, I would encourage you to extend your stay, because nothing is more important at this time than this nation's approach to the development of its renewable energy and its approach to climate change.

Mr. President, I encourage you to travel throughout western North Dakota, to see Little Missouri State Park, a quick jaunt from the Fort Berthold Reservation, whose entrance is forever marred by the placement of a saltwater treatment facility. And then I would encourage you to drive farther west, into Little Missouri National Grasslands -- public lands -- which makes up nearly a third of the nation's total National Grasslands, to observe the destruction of buttes and bluffs that are being sacrificed for profit.

I would like to hike with you, Mr. President, to some of the state's Extraordinary Places (many of which the state's current governor, Jack Dalrymple, has never visited) so that you may fall in love with the land that has so sturdily shaped me. I would like to take you to Camels Hump Butte so that you may drink in the vista of the Badlands that Theodore Roosevelt called home during a time of deep personal grief. We may surprise a mule deer, like I did on my most recent climbing of the butte. Or we could turn south, heading to the majestic Tracy Mountain, just off scoria roadways, North Dakota's own Ayr's Rock. These are just two of North Dakota's threatened natural wonders.

Or we could slip a canoe into the Little Missouri River and paddle our way to where the river enters Lake Sakakawea, hoping to catch sight of wild horses, bison, or a cougar, or to hear the ringing of a rattlesnake tail. This would allow you to take in nearly the full expanse of the mighty North Dakota Badlands and much of the 1.1 million acres of National Grasslands, 95 percent of which in the state of North Dakota are open for oil development. On this canoe trip you would get a greater sense from the ground what this boom looks like, what the flaring of 36 percent of natural gas might do to your lungs, and what stepping into a river polluted by brine and oil spills feels like.

I think a tour such as this, Mr. President, would give you great insight into the beauty of North Dakota, which so desperately needs an advocate today, before it is too late. You have great power in setting aside some of our natural wonders as National Monuments -- North Dakota currently has no such federal distinctions.

Perhaps, Mr. President, this type of tour would give your speech writers inspiration akin to what President Theodore Roosevelt said off-the-cuff on May 6, 1903, at the Grand Canyon: "Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see. We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery."

I am happy to be your tour guide, should you need one, Mr. President. North Dakota looks forward to your future visit. I trust it will be a defining moment of your presidency.