Letters to the Editor – Nov. 8

Why does the Forest Service see it necessary to do “Controlled Burns” in an area, such as the Northeast corner of Wyoming in the Bear Lodge range when we have had a slew of fires this year? It would seem to me that burns, like the one I saw on Oct. 31 just outside Sundance, are not only un-substantiated, but unsafe at this time. The moisture this year was not enough to help curtail an out of control fire. That fact was proven by the multitude of fires in the Big Horns and Casper Mountain. Not taking into account all the smaller blazes throughout the state. The Forest Service has been proven to not be as proactive as they need to be to control and put out fires in the past years, least of all this year. Why can the Forest Service not do a little more research on moisture levels, amount of burn material, structure endangerment, and range not only to structures, but also towns? It would seem that the funding would be more than adequate for more than a little research. I have a hard time understanding the thinking from upper staff to prescribe “Controlled Burns” at this point and time, knowing full well that moisture levels are not adequate to ease firefighting efforts should a “Controlled Burn” become “Uncontrolled.”

It sure seems to me that the Forest Service is putting an awful lot at risk at this time. Even though the County Commissioners have declared it safe for supervised burns by citizens of Crook County, the Forest Service should be held to the same guidelines the rest of us are held to.

There has to be a better time to do controlled burns than at the tail end of an extremely dry season. Please do not misunderstand this letter, I completely see the need for prescribed burns of dead fall and brush as it cuts down on fuel for the next season, and support our firefighters(Forest Service and Local) but this time of year and current status of moisture level is not a good time for burns. There has to be a better way.

Steven M. Blakeman


Time constraints at the October 2012 condemnation hearings precluded raising all matters relevant to condemnation. We therefore, concentrated on the central concern – that the Bakken Pipeline has been negligently sited through the Spearfish Formation, an area characterized by gypsum karst, sinkholes, karst aquifers and unstable soils.

Dr. Petty Rahn and Dr. Arden Davis are arguably the preeminent experts with respect to the geology of the Black Hills and its environs. In addition to holding PhDs in geology, both are professional engineers.

Dr. Davis confirmed that in his opinion siting the pipeline through the gypsum karst which will pose “continuing engineering problems” to the portion of the Bakken NGL Pipeline which crosses the Spearfish Formation.

Dr. Perry Rahn lamented that ONEOK had failed to carry out a geological study as part of the planning process in the siting of its pipeline. He also emphasized that safety should be an engineer’s first concern.

Both recommended moving the pipeline onto stable ground west of the Bearlodge.

Seth Witke, W.S.G.S. testified to areas prone to landslide in areas within the Spearfish Formation along the pipeline route in southern Crook and northern Weston counties.

Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert, described the siting of the Bakken NGL Pipeline through the Spearfish Formation “reckless,” a term with legal implications which he emphasized he did not use lightly or often. He also testified that no pipeline can withstand a massive landslide.

The court decision was that ONEOK met its burden of proof with respect to having planned and sited the pipeline in a manner consistent with the most public good for the least private injury (a requirement for the right to exercise eminent domain under the Wyoming Eminent Act).

Leaving aside the question of whether the Bakken NGL Pipeline represents a public good for the state of Wyoming, ONEOK provided no witness with firsthand knowledge of the planning and siting of the pipeline. ONEOK had the burden of proof to establish that the pipeline had been planned and sited consistent with the most public good for the least private injury. ONEOK presented neither testimony nor exhibits to show that the company had met this requirement of the Wyoming Eminent Domain Act.

Judith Bush