It takes soul to love the prairie

I’ve been trying to write more about North Dakota recently (see here and here). Why? Because I’M MOVING THERE.

Yes, it’s true: starting in two weeks, I’ll be the North Dakota reporter for a brand new multimedia journalism group called Inside Energy. I’ll be based in Bismarck at Prairie Public Broadcasting, covering the Bakken oil boom and other energy-related stories in the Great Northern Plains. Other reporters in Wyoming and Colorado will be doing the same in their respective states, and all together, we’re trying to take an in-depth look at the domestic energy revolution. BAM!

In the meantime, I’ve been making phone calls and trying to get a handle on what’s happening up there. It’s pretty fascinating: as the Western part of the state is booming, other areas are continuing their long, slow decline. The emptying of the prairie and the boom are happening at the same time, in the same place. I’m excited to be in the middle of it.

Oh, and the title of this post? That’s something a North Dakotan said to me on my visit earlier this spring. Anyone can love the mountains, he said, but it takes soul to love the prairie.

I'll be seeing a lot more of you, Prairie.

I’ll be seeing a lot more of you, Prairie.

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Wait…are they robbing that bank?

That was my first question when I saw men with bullet proof vests, helmets and semiautomatic weapons surrounding two banks in downtown Lander, a small town in central Wyoming. In reality, they were escorting an armored truck that was delivering millions of dollars in cash to banks around town. The cash came from the U.S. Treasury, and a few days later, thousands of Northern Arapaho from the near-by Wind River Reservation would flood into town to cash $6,000 checks. The checks were the government’s way of compensating the tribe for mismanaging its mineral resources for decades. For more on the settlement, the lawyer who saw the 37-year long battle to the finish, and the economic impact of the big influx of cash, see here.