While this important piece points out the problems faced when the landowner doesn’t own their own mineral rights, even where mineral rights are owned, oil and gas, like aquifers generally run under the land of more than one landowner. Hence, there is not necessarily choice. And, the landowner-mineral rights owner only gets a pittance, especially as compared to potential damage. If you don’t own your mineral rights, as in this scenario, you are really in trouble, however. Unlike land east of the Mississippi, which was generally sold to citizens by the British or US government, after having been taken from American Indians, with or without payment, the land west of the river was generally stolen and given away by the US government. One of the sole exceptions was in South Carolina, where the settlers had been killed by the Natives – only then was the land given to induce settlers to form a barrier between American Indians and lowland planters-City of Charleston. In particular this Harding County, South Dakota land was never ceded by the Lakota Sioux. It is part of the Great Sioux Reservation. The current landowner may have paid for the land, but the original homesteader did not. It was stolen. Mineral and Land Rights belong to the Lakota Sioux. People from all over the world were allowed to come in and homestead that land, as long as they did not fight in the Confederate Army. This didn’t keep the large plantation slaveowners from getting land out west, because they often let the small farmers and small slaveowners do the fighting for them. Who owns the mineral rights? Probably the US government kept the mineral rights but then sold it off. It’s a nasty and little-told history, only getting nastier. They stole the land and are now destroying it, with this and historic and proposed uranium mining.
If you are following the trend of oil and gas development in the United States, South Dakota isn’t really something that comes up very frequently. With exploding oil trains and ruined wheat fields in North Dakota, that might not necessarily be a bad thing. But that isn’t to say there is no oil and gas development going on in South Dakota. There is, and most of it is happening right up in Harding County.
Oil development creates jobs for some folks who might otherwise not stay in Harding County, but it also has significant impacts on the jobs of the ranchers upon whose backs we develop that oil. The photo above is an aerial photo of DRA member Tim Brown’s land. You can see all the roads and the oil well pads, and you can imagine trying to run sheep or cattle over that land. Imagine, if you’re a…
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